Lifestyle & Belief

Surge in birth defects reported in Iraq, says study

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Yousif Hamed, age 4 years old, his brother Anas Hamed and his sister Inas who suffer from birth defects are pictured in the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad, Iraq. A new study published in October, 2012 says the weapons used by the US and NATO in Iraq led to a rise in birth defects in children conceived in the aftermath of the Iraq war.

Credit:

Muhannad Fala'ah

The weapons used in Iraq in 2003 by the United States and UK forces have led to a rise in birth defects in Iraqi children born in the aftermath of the conflict, according to a study published in the Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Bulletin.

The British newspaper The Independent reported on the study, saying it had recorded high rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury and birth defects such as congenital heart defects, brain dysfunction and malformed limbs.

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the study and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, said there is "compelling evidence" that the increases in defects and miscarriages are linked to the military attacks.

The World Health Organization has also been investigating the impact of toxic substances on babies and families who live in the bombarded cities, especially Fallujah, The Huffington Post noted. The WHO report, due next month, is expected to show a "startling increase in deformities" in infants born after the Iraq war.

The study headed by Savabieasfahani found that between 2007 and 2010, more than half of all the babies monitored were born with birth defects, compared to one in 10 before the war.

More on GlobalPost: Fallujah birth defects a result of US weapons?

Al Arabiya reported that hair samples taken from residents of Fallujah showed trace elements of poisonous metals. The levels of lead were five times higher in the hair of children with birth defects, compared to those without, the study said.

Fallujah was targeted eight years ago after four Americans working with a security company were killed in a grisly attack. A second attack followed seven months later in the militant stronghold. Al Arabiya noted that American forces admitted using white phosphorous shells.

A spokesperson for the US Defense Department told The Independent: "We are not aware of any official reports indicating an increase in birth defects in Al Basrah or Fallujah that may be related to exposure to the metals contained in munitions used by the US or coalition partners. We always take very seriously public health concerns about any population now living in a combat theater. Unexploded ordnance, including improvised explosive devises, are a recognized hazard."

More on GlobalPost: Iraq buys $4.2 billion in weapons from Russia