News / Middle East

Birth Defects Rise in Former Iraqi Battleground

Iraq Birth Defectsi
|| 0:00:00
X
Sebastian Meyer
December 18, 2012 4:30 PM
The Iraqi city of Fallujah is now experiencing an alarming increase in birth defects. A recently-published medical study indicates that exposure to toxic metals from U.S. munitions could be responsible, though the Pentagon denies the claim. Sebastian Meyer reports.

The Iraqi city of Fallujah is experiencing an alarming rise in birth defects.

Sebastian Meyer
— The Iraqi city of Fallujah, which saw some of the heaviest fighting during the Iraq war, is now experiencing an alarming increase in birth defects, including spina bifida.  A recently-published medical study indicates that exposure to toxic metals from U.S. munitions could be responsible, though the Pentagon discounts the claim.

Five-year-old Lujane is one of hundreds of children in Fallujah who have been born since 2004 with severe birth defects.  Her father says Lujane suffers from multiple afflictions that Iraqi doctors struggle to treat.

“The doctor was shocked because it was the first time he saw four defects in one person. A hole in the lower back, a hole in the heart, brain atrophy, and paralysis.”

The medical report, published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, found that the rate of birth defects in Fallujah jumped from two percent in 2001 to 50 percent in 2007. The report suggests that the massive amount of firepower used by the U.S. military in the 2004 battle for Fallujah could be responsible for this alarming increase.

Dr. Ahmed Kamal Qasim, a human geneticist in Baghdad, says the increased birth defects in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq stem from multiple factors related to war, including malnutrition, but also pollution from spent munitions. “Birth defects are genetically divided into two types: chromosomal types and gene types. Chromosomal type increased in huge numbers, compared to the genetic defects types due to the polluted areas," Qasim explained. "Also, the gene defect type increased in some ways like the chromosomal defect, but in small numbers in special areas. We suspect mostly due to the types of chemicals in weapons, especially missiles.”  

The report found that lead levels in children with birth defects are five times higher than in other children and mercury levels are six times higher. Lead and mercury are both neurotoxins which the study says are contained in munitions used by the U.S. military.

Officials at the Pentagon deny U.S. military ammunition contains mercury. And they say they are not aware of any official reports showing increased birth defects in Fallujah caused by exposure to metals contained in U.S. munitions. However, the Pentagon says it always takes very seriously public health concerns that could be associated with U.S. combat activities.
     
But in the case of Abdullah, who suffers from birth defects similart to Lujane's, the cause is clear, according to his father.
 
“I cannot describe my feelings, but all I can say is that I’d sell my own soul to have my son walk. My message to the American soldiers is this: ‘Would you let this happen to your children?’”

The toxicology study is careful to mention that more research needs to be done to find the exact cause of these birth defects.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: sean from: u.s.
December 26, 2012 4:56 AM
Depleted uranium!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid