Huge increase in leukaemia and birth defects in Iraq

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Baby born in Iraq with birth deformities (Photo credit: Karen Robinson)
Baby born in Iraq with birth deformities (Photo credit: Karen Robinson)

THE use of depleted uranium in Iraq by the US and UK military has led to a huge increase in Leukemia and birth defects in the cities of Najaf, Fallujah and Basra, according to reports from the Norwegian government and a Dutch report.

The city of Najaf saw one of the most severe military actions during the 2003 imperialist invasion.

Every residential street in several neighbourhoods has seen multiple cases of families whose children are either suffering from cancer or whose children have died from it.

Interviewed by Russia Today (RT), Dr Sundus Nsaif says the city has seen a ‘dramatic rise’ in cancer and birth defects since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

‘After the start of the Iraq war, rates of cancer, leukemia and birth defects rose dramatically in Najaf.

‘The areas affected by American attacks saw the biggest increases.

‘We believe it’s because of the illegal weapons like depleted uranium that were used by the Americans.

‘When you visit the hospital here you see that cancer is more common than the flu.’

Leila Jabar, whose three children died because they were born with congenital deformities, told RT: ‘The war isn’t over. Yes, the Americans are gone, but we are still suffering from the consequences.’

She believes that radioactive ammunition used by American forces during the war are responsible for the health problems of her children.

Her only surviving child an 8-months-old boy Ahmed has a nervous system disorder and doctors don’t expect him to survive his first birthday.

Dr Chris Busby, who has extensively researched the effects of depleted uranium (DU), said the only source of uranium in Iraq was used by American-led forces.

Quoted in a Dutch report, he said: ‘We looked at the parents of children with congenital malformation and we did analysis of their hair to see what was inside their hair that might be genotoxic, that might be the sort of thing that can cause congenital malformation.

‘The only thing that we found was uranium. We found uranium in the mothers of the children with congenital malformations.’

In Fallujah, there have been extremely high rates of congenital birth defects.

At least two types of bomb that utilise DU munitions were employed against Fallujah by the imperialists in 2003.

At least 440,000kg of DU were used in Iraq, some ending up as DU dust, and some as corroding penetrators – leaving a still unknown number of sites with contaminated vehicles, buildings and soils, according to the Dutch report by the Ikv Pax Christi charity.

The report states: ‘The exposure risks to civilians from the use of DU in populated areas have been compounded by the US’s persistent refusal to release the data that could have helped facilitate the effective assessment and clearance work, providing that the Iraqi government had the capacity and finances to undertake it.

‘Aside from DU’s potential impact on physical health, it is highly likely that its use and presence in Iraq has led to heightened fear and anxiety, which in turn may have created a measurable psycho-social impact.’

Another report, funded by the Norwegian government, recently found that depleted uranium was used against civilian targets in populated areas in Iraq in 2003.

It highlights an incident in Najaf where a Bradley armoured fighting vehicle fired 305 depleted uranium rounds in a single engagement.

Dr Busby continued: ‘We know that uranium is genotoxic, that it causes these levels of genetic damage, and because of that it also causes cancer.

‘The only source of uranium was the use by the American-led forces of uranium weapons.

‘Not only depleted uranium weapons but, as we later found out, slightly enriched uranium weapons which we believe they were using in order to cover their tracks.

‘So, I think we have more or less proved that these effects are a result of the use, during the two wars, of uranium and the particles that the uranium weapons produced.’

Depleted uranium weapons are known for the ability to penetrate through walls and tanks.

One of its most dangerous side effects is that when the substance vapourises, it generates dust inhaled by individuals.

The Pentagon and the UN estimate that US and British forces used 1,100 to 2,200 tons of armour-piercing shells made of depleted uranium during attacks in Iraq in March and April, 2003, far more than the (officially) estimated 375 tons used in the 1991 Gulf War, according to a report published in Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2003.

In cities like Basra and Fallujah, where US and British forces used heavy munitions at the beginning of the war, it is believed that more than half of all babies born after the start of the war had heart defects.

According to a study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, between October 1994 and October 1995 the number of birth defects per 1,000 live births in Al Basra Maternity Hospital was 1.37.

In 2003, the number of birth defects in the same hospital was 23 per 1,000 live births.

Within less than a decade, the occurrence of congenital birth defects increased by over 1,700 per cent.

Non-government organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) have voiced concerns over the actual effects of the use of such weapons.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Iraq are expected to publish a report on this in the near future.

According to the WHO, the report will not examine the link between the prevalence of birth defects and use of depleted uranium munitions used during the war and occupation in Iraq.

WHO said in a statement: ‘Since the issue of associating congenital birth defects with exposure to depleted uranium has not been included in the scope of this particular study, establishing a link between the congenital birth defects prevalence and exposure to depleted uranium would require further research.’

Meanwhile, people in Najaf struggle to provide the necessary medical support for their children suffering from a wide range of disorders.

Some couples have said that they will not have any more children because of the chance that they will be born with several birth defects.