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WHO is delaying release of Iraqi birth defect data?

(Iraq-file photo)

by Kelley B. Vlahos, source

Observers say they are on the cusp of getting the hard evidence needed to prove Iraqis are suffering from a disproportionate rate of birth defects and cancers, likely due to massive pollution caused by the war.

So what’s the problem? Or should we say, WHO is the problem?

As in the World Health Organization (WHO) is the public health arm of the United Nations and is tasked with “providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.” Currently, WHO is “providing technical assistance” to the Iraq Ministry of Health (MOH) in a much anticipated study of congenital health defects in 18 Iraqi districts, including Fallujah and Basra – places that have reported high rates of babies born with horrifying maladies since the war began. Basra, consequently, has reported higher incidents of cancer, too, since the first Persian Gulf War. See some of Antiwar’s previous coverage here.

The problem is, the results of the study, which began in May 2012, were expected in early 2013. Both medical and human rights advocates are wondering why they have been delayed – as of today, indefinitely. They want answers now.

“It is incredibly important for the Iraqi people that these data are published, and published in a swift and transparent manner,” said Doug Weir, Coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. “No more delays, independent peer review is the only way to ensure public confidence in the process.”

When contacted by Antiwar, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevik said the release of the data was in the Iraqis’ hands at MOH. When we reached out Dr. Mohamed Jaber, who is listed as an advisor to the Ministry of Health and deputy chair of the steering committee in charge of the study in Iraq, he said it was up to WHO to determine the release date. Upon further inquiry, Jasarevik said if MOH “ask(s) us to release it on their behalf, WHO would do it.”

That could be as early as September, Jasarevik told Antiwar.

A lengthy explanation on the WHO website offers one clue to the report’s delay so far. After a peek at the preliminary data in June, “it was established that this large data set has a great deal of potentially valuable information and that additional analyses not originally conceived of should be done.” It will also be peer reviewed. “A team of independent scientists is now being recruited,” and key findings will be released by the government of Iraq once “these steps are completed.”

Critics say that time is of the essence (Fallujah, which was the scene of two massive U.S military offensives in 2004 is reporting defects in 144 of all 1,000 babies born; Basra is reporting a 60 percent increase in defects among their own live births), and suspect the delays are politically motivated.

“I believe the Iraqi government is responding to pressure from the US to keep the issue under the radar,” charged Donna Mulhearn, an Australian antiwar activist who has traveled repeatedly to Fallujah and interviewed doctors as well as Iraq families affected. The degree of the physical horrors she and others have reported over the last several years is staggering: babies born with parts of their skulls missing, various tumors, missing genitalia, limbs and eyes, severe brain damage, unusual rates of paralyzing spina bifida (marked by the gruesome holes found in the tiny infants’ backs), Encephalocele (a neural tube defect marked by swollen sac-like protrusions from the head), and more.

Doctors have been crying out for help since at least 2010, when the BBC’s John Simpson was handed a photograph of a baby born in Fallujah with two heads. Women there were being told to stop getting pregnant. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health declared that some kind of congenital malformation was found in 15 percent of all births in Fallujah – heart defects being the most common, followed by neural tube defects.

In 2011, Fallujah doctors were reporting two birth defects a day, compared to two every two weeks in 2008. More recently in front of BBC cameras, Dr. Mushin Sabbak who works at Basra Maternity Hospital, said he believed that “mercury, lead, uranium” from the war are responsible for what his hospital is claiming to be a 60 percent increase in birth defects there. “We have no other explanation than this,” he said.

When Mulhearn visited Iraq this year, too, she said the situation remained unchanged. If anything it was worse. “There were about five babies born that we met – two of them died. It’s ongoing,” she told us in April.

“When I was in Iraq earlier this year there was a definite feeling of fear and intimidation among Doctors who felt pressure from the Government to stay quiet about increasing levels of cancer and birth defects,” Mulhearn recalled Antiwar last week in an email exchange.

“One cancer specialist in Basra was removed from his senior position in a hospital because he has been outspoken on the issue of radiation caused by depleted uranium pollution and what he believes is it’s terrible impact of the health of Iraqis in the Basra region. He was nervous about giving us an on-camera interview because of possible ramifications.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a Michigan-based environmental toxicologist who has been doggedly studying and speaking out about what she believes are defects caused by the pollution of war, wrote this in an August 11 op-ed for Al Jazeera:

In Iraq, war debris continues to wear away and erode populated cities. Such debris includes the wreckage of tanks and armoured vehicles, trucks and abandoned military ammunitions, as well as the remains of bombs and bullets. Left unabated, the debris will act as dangerous toxic reservoirs; releasing harmful chemicals into the environment and poisoning people who live nearby.

Today, increasing numbers of birth defects are surfacing in many Iraqi cities, including Mosul, Najaf, Fallujah, Basra, Hawijah, Nineveh, and Baghdad. In some provinces, the rate of cancers is also increasing. Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects – some never described in any medical books – are weighing heavily on Iraqi families.

Savabieasfahani questions the delay of the WHO study as well:

Everyone knows that large-scale epidemiological studies are expensive to fund and highly competitive proposals are elicited. It is a matter of routine practice to include a detailed study time-line in such proposals from the beginning – not at the end. The timeline routinely includes an estimation of time for data analysis and re-analysis, followed by publication of findings (i.e. peer-review). This normally means there is a clear and defined timeframe in which the data is expected to be published. The originally reported release date, November 2012, is now long gone.

The repeated delays, and fresh excuses for more delays, have left many observers puzzled, anddeeper concerns are being articulated. Critical faults in the design of the WHO study have now entered the spotlight, principally the study’s avoidance of any inquiry into causation.

This comes to the crux of things, for sure. While it will examine the prevalence of congenital birth defects in the 18 districts identified, it “is not aiming to establishing cause-effect associations between [congenital birth defects] prevalence and environmental risk factors.” In other words, the results might very well tell us there is a disproportionate rate of abnormalities in babies born to mothers after the war in Fallujah and Basra, but it will not say whether there is a direct correlation to heavy metals – including depleted uranium – in the air or groundwater there.

This “continues to alarm many scientists and public health professionals,” wrote Savabieasfahani.

She and others note that there have been a series of studies, independent and peer reviewed, that have already made the connections. However, the authority of the World Health Organization, working directly with the Iraqi government, would give similar findings an official urgency the previous studies could not offer. These institutions’ ostensible hesitancy is fueling theories that there is some greater pressure – from the US government, perhaps – at hand here.

Example: the aforementioned BBC story in March interviewed two MOH officials – on camera – saying the MOH/WHO report will show escalated numbers of birth defects in the cities that bore heavy fighting in the war. They women (unnamed) appear to say they believe that exploded munitions were linked to the rise in birth defects in these areas. When we asked about this on Aug. 15, Dr. Jaber flatly denied any of his people said any such thing.

When the BBC asked about the womens’ claims in that March story, the Pentagon did not respond. British officials said they were waiting for the official results of the study before commenting at all.

This is in line with the way the US military has dealt with these questions from the beginning. They either reject the claims outright or ignore reporters’ calls for comment. The consideration that depleted uranium leftover by both the first and second Gulf Wars might have a role to play (we know it was used – as I explain in my earlier Antiwar and American Conservative articles on the subject – but not how much) is a big one among advocates and critics. The Pentagon has strongly asserted that “no studies to date” have indicated a link between war munitions and “specific health issues” relating to what is happening in places like Fallujah today.

This isn’t true of course. There is this examination, which shows an increase in cancer and child mortality rates in Fallujah (2010). Meanwhile, Savabieasfahani has been working on her own studies like this one, which indicate higher levels of lead and mercury in children in Basra, where a staggering level of cancer and defects are noted (2012). But the emphasis is always on “official,” and where Pentagon spokespersons might have completely ignored this growing body of findings before, they might not be able to brush away more authoritative data from the WHO and MOH in the same way.

Maybe this is what they are afraid of.

The demand for action is growing, however. Samira Al’aani, a doctor in Fallujah who has been working “in Fallujah as a Pediatrician since 1997 but began to notice something was wrong in 2006 and began logging the cases” of birth defects, has started a petition on Change.org asking for the WHO and MOH to release the data as soon as possible. As of Aug. 16, it had reached 6,000 signatures, one of them being Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, who wrote on the website last month:

The congenital defects research carried out in Fallujah is a crucial part of research in Iraq of the effects of foreign munitions illegally used against Iraq’s civilian population. WHO must be told it can not again evade its responsibilities to publish the data it has. Protection of impunity can not be the answer given by an important United Nations Agency to crimes committed.

Al’aani told Weir in a recent interview that the MOH was about to launch a similar study with the WHO in 2001 because of concerns that remnants of the first Gulf War had been causing a spike in cancer rates and deformities among Iraqi infants.

“Depleted uranium from US and UK munitions was among the environmental risk factors to be investigated,” Al’anni told Weir in the interview.

“After six months, the plans were in disarray. While Baghdad had initiated the project, after consultation the WHO had announced that any costs associated with the projects would need to be borne by Iraq itself,” she said. “The Iraqi government, convinced that the health problems had been caused by the 1991 Gulf War and were thus the fault of the US and its allies, refused to cooperate. Political concerns had trumped the needs of the Iraqi people.”

There is so much pollution in Iraq right now that those who do not want to believe that US and U.K war machines are directly responsible for the health effects can certainly suggest other culprits. The country’s infrastructure is wrecked and the Iraqi government has hardly been the model of urgency where reconstruction and environmental safety regarding clean drinking water and sewage are concerned. We can find stories dating back prewar of raw industrial sewage being dumped into the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the main source of water, transport and recreation for millions of Iraqis. But after the war, especially, we recognize the extent of pollution is far beyond local communities’ ability to fix.

It’s lucky not everyone is sick, but realistically, we really don’t know how many are, and when the heartbreaking manifestations will occur over the course of a generation – or two, possibly more. That’s where the public health institutions like WHO and the MOH and the babies come in. We not only need to know the extent of birth defects, but why.

In that regard, they hold the future of Iraq in their hands.

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Two births: A gilded arrival and a poisoned legacy

(Iraqi children with birth defects-file photo)

by Felicity Arbuthnot, source

 … war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children.

— Howard Zinn, 1922-2010

On  July 22 two babies were born – in different worlds. Prince George Alexander Louis, son of Britain’s Prince William and his wife Catherine, arrived in the £5,000 a night Lindo Wing of London’s St. Mary’s Hospital, weighing a super healthy 8lbs 6 oz.

According to the hospital’s website:

The Lindo Wing offers private en suite rooms, designed to provide you with comfort and privacy during your stay. Deluxe rooms or a suite are available on request. Each room has a satellite TV with major international channels, a radio, a safe, a bedside phone and a fridge. You and your visitors can access the internet and … a daily newspaper is delivered to your room each morning throughout your stay. Toiletries are also provided.

Also on hand is a “Comprehensive wine list, should you wish to enjoy a glass of champagne and toast your baby’s arrival.”

Moments away, are also some of the world’s finest medical facilities and specialists, in the event of complications.

To mark the birth, the band of the Scots Guards played at Buckingham Palace, the fountains in Central London’s Trafalgar Square were lit with blue lights for six days and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and the Honourable Artillery Company staged a forty-one gun royal salute. At least, breaking the habits of the centuries, and recent decades, this time they didn’t kill anyone.

On the same day, a universe away, in Fallujah, Iraq – poisoned by weapons armed with uranium, chemically and radiologically toxic, and white phosphorous, a chemical weapon, and other so far unidentified “exotic weapons” – baby Humam was born in a city relentlessly bombarded in 1991 and again in two further criminal, inhuman US decimations in 2004.

Humam was born with Retrognathia, a congenital heart disease, Omphalocele and Polydactly of upper and lower limbs. Omphalocele is an abnormality that develops as the the foetus is forming. Some of the abdominal organs protrude through an opening in the abdominal muscles in the area of the umbilical cord. Polydactly is the manifestation of extra digits on the hands or feet, in Humam’s case, both.

Humam translates as “Brave, noble, generous.”

Dr Chris Busby, whose appointments have included sitting on the UK Ministry of Defence Oversight Committee on Depleted Uranium, and is a visiting Professor in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Ulster, has made extensive studies in Fallujah. He tested parents of “children with congenital anomalies and measured the concentration of 52 elements in the hair of the mothers and fathers. We also looked at the surface soil, river water and drinking water. We used a very powerful (mass spectroscopy) technique called ICPMS … the only substance we found that could explain the high levels of genetic damage was the radioactive element uranium.”

Much has rightly been made of the use of depleted uranium (DU) in Iraq in 1991 and the subsequent decade-plus illegal bombing of the country by the US and UK, then the 2003 and subsequent onslaughts, but, says Busby:

Astonishingly, it was not depleted uranium. It was slightly enriched uranium, the kind that is used in nuclear reactors or atomic bombs. We found it in the hair and also in the soil. We concentrated the soil chemically so there could be no mistake. Results showed slightly enriched uranium – manmade.

This enriched uranium was found in Fallujah’s “soil, water and in the hair of parents whose children had anomalies.”

Relating to the near Dresden-like bombardment of November 2004, Busby is convinced of a connection between cancers, deformities and the uranium weapons:

“Uranium is excreted into hair and hair grows at a known rate: one centimeter per month. We obtained very long hair samples … and measured the uranium along the lengths of the hair, which gave us historic levels back as far as 2005. In one woman, whose hair was 80 centimeters, the uranium concentration went up toward the tip of the hair, showing very high exposures in the past (and) “the uranium was manmade, it was enriched uranium”.

Busby believes “… these results prove the existence of a new secret uranium weapon. We have found some US patents for thermobaric and directed charge warheads which employ uranium … to increase their effect …”

His team also “investigated bomb craters in Lebanon in 2006 after the Israeli attacks and found one which was radioactive and containing enriched uranium. We found enriched uranium in car air filters from Lebanon and also from Gaza. Others have found evidence of its use in Afghanistan and possibly also in the Balkans …an astonishing discovery with many global implications.”

Dr Busby claims that:

It is clear that the military has a secret uranium weapon of some sort. It causes widespread and terrifying genetic defects, causing cancer and birth anomalies and poisoning the gene pool of whole populations. This is a war crime and must be properly investigated.

This material … is slowly contaminating the whole planet. It is poisoning the human gene pool, leading to increases in cancer, congenital anomalies, miscarriages and infertility … It has probably been employed in Libya, so we must wait and see what levels of cancer and congenital disease appears there.” (Emphasis mine.)

Further, Dr Busby’s report, compiled with Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, found infant mortality in Fallujah in 80 of every thousand births. In neighbouring Jordan it is 17.

Robert Fisk describes a visit to Fallujah General Hospital last year:

The pictures flash up on a screen on an upper floor of the Fallujah General Hospital. And all at once, Nadhem Shokr al-Hadidi’s administration office becomes a little chamber of horrors. A baby with a hugely deformed mouth. A child with a defect of the spinal cord, material from the spine outside the body. A baby with a terrible, vast Cyclopean eye. Another baby with only half a head, stillborn like the rest …  a tiny child with half a right arm, no left leg, no genitalia … a dead baby with just one leg and a head four times the size of its body.

One British trained obstetrician somehow raised funds for a £79,000 scanner for detection of congenital abnormalities. Why, she asked, would Iraqi’s Ministry of Health not hold a full investigation into Fallujah’s birth defect epidemic?

Answer:  surely because the cause would be weapons used by the US – to whom the government of Iraq owe their positions and their mega money accumulating enterprises.

(Ironically the Ministry of Health under Saddam Hussein moved mountains, under the uniquely difficult circumstances of the embargo, to collect statistics from throughout the country and to press the relevant world bodies for widespread investigation into the cancers and abnormalities, to no avail.)

Dr Samira Allani talks of “the increased frequency (of congenital abnormalities) that is alarming.” Congenital heart defects, a research paper she has written states, had reached “unprecedented numbers” by 2010. Still births and premature births also continue in an upward spiral.

Fallujah lacks even laboratory equipment to facilitate the treatment of foetal infections which are curable.

But this is an Iraq-wide phenomenon, ongoing since the 1991 bombings and simply multiply escalating.

In the southern holy city of Najav, Dr Sundus Nsaif says:

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

Dr Nsaif comments on an active push by the government not to talk about the issue, speculating the reason is perhaps in an effort not to embarrass coalition forces. Never mind embarrassment.  The implications for claims for compensation could be a world first in the potential size of damages, wherever these weapons have been used.

In Basra it is reported that birth defects increased 17 fold in under a decade after the 2003 invasion and, as Fallujah, over half of all babies conceived since are “born with heart defects.”

“The Pentagon and the UN estimate that US and British forces used 1,100 to 2,200 tons of armor-piercing shells” made of depleted uranium during attacks in Iraq in just two months, March and April 2003. Enriched uranium is not mentioned, of course. That added to the up to 900 tonnes in 1991, the subsequent illegal bombings and the bombardments including Fallujah, March 2003-December 2011, when the US forces slunk out of their killing fields under cover of darkness.

The warning after 1991 by none other than the UK Atomic Energy Agency must never be forgotten:  “If fifty tonnes of the residual (depleted uranium) dust is left in the region, there will be an estimated half million cancer deaths by the end of the century” (2000). The further horror of enriched uranium was not, seemingly, a known factor then.

There is surely a vast cover up on the effects of these weapons. As Mozhgan Savabieasfahani has written:

The joint (World Health Organisation) and Iraqi Ministry of Health Report on cancers and birth defect in Iraq was originally due to be released in November 2012. It has been delayed repeatedly and now has no release date whatsoever.

He writes, “The back-breaking burden of cancers and birth defects continues to weigh heavily on the Iraqi people”, in an article which draws attention to the fact that 54 eminent academics from a number of countries have written to the WHO demanding the release of the  Report.

He adds that in November 2006, “The British Medical Journal published an article entitled “WHO suppressed evidence on effects of depleted uranium, expert says”. It suggested that earlier WHO reports were compromised by the omission of a full account of depleted uranium genotoxicity.

“Additionally, recent revelations by Hans von Sponeck, the former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, suggest that WHO may be susceptible to pressure from its member states.

“Mr. von Sponeck has said that ‘The US government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where depleted uranium had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers.’”

Further, adding fuel to radioactive fire, there are reports that the latest WHO Report does not even touch on depleted uranium (yet alone enriched.) We will have to wait and see – and wait and wait … The WHO, of course, is an arm of the UN, so read US.

One of the first people arrested in Iraq on the asinine US playing cards of the “most wanted” in 2003, was Dr Huda Ammash. Dean of Baghdad University, and internationally renowned environmental biologist, who earned her PhD at the University of Missouri.

She extensively researched and wrote papers on the effects of DU and other pollutants after the 1991 war and cited the International Treaties outlawing such weapons and stressed depleted uranium weapons not being “depleted” but a “radioactive waste”, all in minutely detailed, careful, hard hitting, scientific, incontrovertible fact. “DU is radiologically and chemically toxic to humans and other forms of life.”  She was way ahead in what she had detected.

Her contribution to the widely acclaimed Iraq Under Siege – the Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War (Pluto Press, 2000, updated 2003) was a wake-up call on the environmental Armageddon wrought on Iraq by the toxic weapons of 1991.

Her introduction read:

The Gulf war ended in 1991, but the massive destruction linked to it continues. An unprecedented catastrophe resulting from a mixture of toxic, radiological, chemical and electromagnetic exposure is still causing substantial consequences to health and the environment …. much of Iraq has been turned into a polluted and radioactive environment.

The highly publicized book surely made her a marked woman. She was one of the first arrests of the Iraq invasion, dubbed “Dr Anthrax” in US disinformation, remaining in US custody until November 2005.

Robert Fisk, in his graphic article, cited above, writes: “This is too much. These photographs are too awful … They simply cannot be published.”  He cites the pain of the parents, many who wanted to talk to him and the world to know.

The facts, the pictures, should be on the front page of news outlets across the globe until these obscene weapons are outlawed. Iraq’s plight is being, and will be, replicated wherever they have been and are again used.

They are the new Hiroshimas and Nagasakis, with the genetic burden loaded on future generations for possibly millennia.

If the WHO Report ever comes out, it will anyway be no good to baby Humam and uncounted others.

The birth was “very emotional” said Prince William’s wife, Catherine, of that of Prince George Alexander Louis. Imagine being Humam’s mother, or any mother in Iraq, who has no idea what horrors her precious offspring may present with.

The little Prince is to be feted from the day of his birth onwards – uncounted children of Iraq and wherever these weapons have been used, are fated from the day of theirs.

Ironically the Prince’s father and uncle, Prince Harry, both belong to the UK armed forces, with America, partners in crime in these horrors.

• See also “Pentagon admits used white phosphorous against Iraqis in Fallujah

Rise of cancers and birth defects in Iraq: World Health Organization refuses to release data

(Iraqi cancer patient-file photo)

by Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, source

To the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Health: (New signatures added)

The back-breaking burden of cancers and birth defects continues to weigh heavily on the Iraqi people.

The joint WHO and Iraqi Ministry of Health Report on cancers and birth defect in Iraq was originally due to be released in November 2012. It has been delayed repeatedly and now has no release date whatsoever.

By March 2013, staff from the Iraqi Ministry of Health announced that this report will show an increase in cancers and birth defects due to the explosions of war. This was broadcasted repeatedly on the BBC.

Therefore we are baffled and alarmed at the WHO’s inability to release any of its findings, despite our urgent request of May 2013, for the WHO to release its report.

The Iraqi birth defects epidemic, by itself, would outrage anyone with the simplest understanding of population health and disease. Who could justify blocking the release of information from a long-completed investigation of that epidemic?

Why have our inquiries failed to break the WHO’s apparent filibuster against releasing that data? WHO has a staff of thousands, including medical doctors, public health specialists, scientists, and sophisticated epidemiologists. They are certainly capable of presenting that data to the public by now.

The need for a timely response to public health emergencies (such as the one unfolding in Iraq) is at the heart of all epidemiological studies. Delivering adequate and timely population relief should be the focal point of this WHO report — but where is the report? Where is the data which was clearly summarized (without numbers) on the BBC in March 2013?

We are now told that some new decisions were taken during a June 25th 2013 meeting http://www.emro.who.int/irq/iraq-infocus/faq-congenital-birth-defect-study.html between WHO and high level authorities of the Iraqi Ministry. They decided that not even a few bits of that birth-defects report can be released before WHO jumps these new hurdles:

(1) “additional analyses not originally conceived”,

(2) “in addition to further analyses, it was determined the work should also undergo the scientific standard of peer review”.

(3) recruitment of a “team of independent scientists… to review the planned analyses”.

(4) “preparation for that meeting”,

(5) “a summary report of that meeting”

(6) “key findings from the analysis” to be released following steps 1-5 above.

To an untrained ear, these might sound like reasonable explanations.  We are certainly not opposed to additional steps like analyses, peer review, etc.

Yet none of those steps should be interposed as excuses for further delay in releasing the data which is already known. If it was known in March 2013, when the BBC broadcasted the Iraqi Ministry’s comments on that data, then surely now that information can be released. Why is it still treated like a state secret?

However, large-scale epidemiological studies, such as the WHO report on Iraq birth defects, are expensive to fund. Hence, highly competitive proposals are elicited for such studies. It is a matter of routine practice to include a detailed study time-line in such proposals from the beginning — not at the end. The time-line routinely includes an estimation of time for data analysis and reanalysis, followed by publication of findings (i.e. peer-review). This normally means there is a clear and defined timeframe in which the data is expected to be published.  The originally reported release date (November 2012) is now long gone. So yes, the continuing delay, augmented by fresh excuses for more delay, concerns us.

The past record of the WHO when dealing with related findings from the region are also a source of serious concern.

The British Medical Journal published an article entitled” WHO suppressed evidence on effects of depleted uranium, expert says” in November 2006. It suggested that earlier WHO reports were compromised by the omission of a full account of depleted uranium genotoxicity.

Additionally, recent revelations by Hans von Sponeck, the former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, suggest that WHO may be susceptible to pressure from its member states. Mr. von Sponeck has saidthat “The US government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where depleted uranium had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers.”

Given the urgent public health crisis in Iraq, we the undersigned encourage the WHO and the Iraqi Health Ministry to release all available data from their completed study on birth defects and cancers immediately.

The Iraqi people’s health will be further harmed if you continue to delay that release. Allowing the public to examine that data cannot possibly hamper the WHO’s own expanded analysis.

Affiliations are listed only for identification purposes, unless otherwise indicated.

1) Muhsin Al-Sabbak , Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Al Basrah Maternity Hospital, Basrah, Iraq.

2) Susan Sadik Ali, Professor of Dentistry, Al Basrah Maternity Hospital, Basrah, Iraq.

3) Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, Researcher, Environmental Toxicologist, Tehran, Iran.

4) Saeed Dastgiri, Professor of Epidemiology, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran.

5) Azadeh Shahshahani, National Lawyers Guild, Atlanta, Georgia U.S.A.

6) As`ad AbuKhalil, Professor, Dept. of Politics, California State University, Stanislaus; U.S.A.

7) Maged Agour MD, Consultant Psychiatrist, U.K.

8) A Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Chair of the Department of International Development Studies Trent University, Canada.

9) Izzeldin Abuelaish, Associate Professor of Global Health, University of Toronto, Canada.

10) Michael Albert, American activist, economist, speaker, and writer.

11) Riad Bacho, Associate Professor, Lebanese University, Beirut, Lebanon.

12) Haim Bresheeth, Professor of film studies, filmmaker, photographer, University of East London, U.K.

13) David O. Carpenter, M.D. Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University at Albany, N.Y.

14) Noam Chomsky, Professor of linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A.

15) Blaine Coleman, Human rights activist and attorney, U.S.A.

16) Michael Collins, Professor, UCLA School of Public Health, Department of Molecular Toxicology, Environmental Health Sciences, Los Angeles U.S.A.

17) David Cromwell Co-Editor, Media Lens, U.K.

18) Tom Davis, Chief Program Officer, Food for the Hungry, U.S.A.

19) Peter Eglin, Department of Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.

20) Christo El Morr, Assistant Professor of Health Informatics, York University, Canada.

21) Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University, Canada.

22) Irene Gendzier, Professor, Dept of Political Science, Boston University, USA.

23) Jess Ghannam, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, and Global Health Sciences University of California, San Francisco, USA.

24) Prof. David Ingleby, Centre for Social Science and Global Health, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

25) Kazuko Ito, Secretary General, signing on behalf of Human Rights Now, Japan.

26) Ms. Nahoko Tahako, Human Rights Now, Japan.

27) Jon Jureidini Professor and Child Psychiatrist, Department of Psychological Medicine Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, University of Adelaide and Senior Research Fellow Department of Philosophy, Flinders University, South Australia.

28) Ilan Kapoor, Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada.

29) Leili Kashani, Human rights activist, Center for constitutional rights, U.S.A.

30) Michael Keefer, Professor emeritus School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada.

31) Imad Khadduri, Iraqi nuclear scientist. U.K.

32) David Klein, Professor of Mathematics, California State University, Northridge, U.S.A.

33) Mustafa Koc, Professor, Department of Sociology and Centre for Studies in Food Security, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

34) Hans Koechler, Professor and Chair of Political Philosophy and Philosophical Anthropology University of Innsbruck, President of the International Progress Organization, Vienna, Austria.

35) Malcolm Levitt, School of Chemistry, University of Southampton, U.K.

36) Drake Logan Civilian-Soldier Alliance, Right to Heal Initiative Right to Heal/Operation Recovery Research Team New York, United States.

37) Rudy List, Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, University of Birmingham, U.K.

38) Ken Loach, television and film director. U.K.

39) Moshe Machover, Professor Emeritus of philosophy, King’s College, London, U.K.

40) Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Boston, U.S.A.

41) Mary Anne Mercer, DrPH, Senior Mother & Child Health Advisor, on behalf of Health Alliance InternationalSeattle, U.S.A.

42) David Nicholl, MD, Consultant Neurologist, Birmingham, U.K.

43) David Ozonoff, Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University, Boston, U.S.A.

44) David Peterson, Chicago-based writer and researcher. U.S.A.

45) Mr. John Pilger, journalist and film director. U.K.

46) Elaine Power, Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University Kingston, Canada.

47) Hilary Rose, Professor of Social Policy, University of Bradford Emerita Professor of Genetics and Society, Gresham College, London, former consultant to the WHO Copenhagen, Denmark.

48) Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Biology (neuroscience) Department of Life Health and Chemical Sciences The Open University Milton Keynes, MK76AA Emeritus Professor of Physick (Genetics and Society) Gresham College London

49) Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, Department of Management, London School of Economics.

50) Pamela Spees, Senior Staff Attorney, on behalf of Center for Constitutional Rights, United States.

51) Ruqayya Sulaiman-Hill, Centre for Rural Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia.

52) Susanne Soederberg, Professor of Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

53) John Tirman, Executive Director and Principal Research Scientist, Center for International Studies, MIT, U.S.A.

54) Tahir Zaman, Center for Research on Migration and Belonging, University of East London, U.K.

The legacy of horror for children in Iraq

(Iraqi children-File photo)

Unite Against the Warmongers

by HOWARD LISNOFF, source

Children are innocent and often the innocent victims of U.S. warfare. Despite protections, most written after the carnage of masses of civilians during World War II, the U.S. quickly jettisoned its commitment to the protection of civilians and children by the rules of international and U.S. law as soon as the burning embers of war cooled. Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are among the places most notable for the murder of children in wars in which the U.S. has waged. From conventional weapons to nuclear weapons and on to drone warfare, we do it all!

Just ten years ago I stood along with my wife and hundreds of other protesters in front of the federal building in Providence, Rhode Island wearing a rubber mask of George W. Bush with a sign hanging from around my neck that read “War Criminal.” The sign gained the attention of a reporter from the Associated Press and the interview she conducted with me reached around the world. I noted that reports had already been cited in the media that children had been killed in the bombardment of Baghdad. As I expected, some of the postings on the Web about my observations at the beginning of the Iraq War drew the contempt of those who naively believed that Iraq possessed so-called weapons of mass destruction and that the government of Iraq had links to Al-Qaeda. As usual, the masses marched in step to the beat of the warmongers!

When a person counters militarism in the U.S., or puts his or her feet on the ground in protest to U.S. wars, there’s a price to be paid. That’s a given. But absolutely nothing could prepare me for the airing on Democracy Now of the segment “Ten Years Later, U.S. Has Left Iraq with Mass Displacement & Epidemic of Birth Defects, Cancers” (March 20, 2013). Al Jazeera’s Dahr Jamail reports in that segment of the program that congenital birth defects in the city of Fallujah, the site of some of the heaviest fighting of the war, has surpassed those recorded in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki following the use of nuclear bombs in those cities at the end of World War II. The culprit in these grotesque birth defects is the suspected use of depleted uranium munitions by the U.S.

The Geneva Conventions are clear that the targeting of civilians by these types of munitions, including weapons such as white phosphorous, are clearly banned. But the U.S. has long noted that these casualties are known as collateral damage and of no real interest to the so-called imbedded reporters from major media outlets who served as cheerleaders during the years of war in Iraq and who in any case have long since left the scene.

The images of Iraqi babies with horrific birth defects are too awful to describe, except that the world needs to know the graphic results of the evil of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others! Innocent infants are seen with the single eye of a cyclops, with heads so enlarged as to hardly be recognizable compared to a normal child, and with limbs and internal organs scattered across what should be a human body in ways that are impossible to imagine!

And cancers increased in the general population from 40 out of 100,000 people in 1991 in Iraq to 1,600 out of 100.000 in 2005!

When I became a war resister against the Vietnam War, I knew that I was risking my freedom. Images of children with the burnt skin of napalm attacks, bodies of men, women, and children massacred in ditches at My Lai, and the dead and wounded of my own generation at Kent and Jackson State were very powerful and moved me to action and resistance. It was said that the U.S. war against the Vietnamese was immoral because this nation had never been attacked by Vietnam. How different are the innocent of Iraq, where the U.S. inflicted unspeakable horrors on an entire people in the name of regime change and oil?

Iraq’s youngest casualties of war

(Iraqi child-File photo)

by David Kenner, Foreign Policy, source

The Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology published a study in September titled “Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities.”

The study, which was funded by the University of Michigan’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, examines the prevalence of birth defects in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Fallujah, both of which experienced heavy fighting during the worst days of the Iraq war. As originally noted by US analyst David Isenberg, the study found an “astonishing” increase in the number of birth defects in a Basra maternal hospital when compared to before the war.

From October 1994 to October 1995, there were 1.37 birth defects at al- Basrah Maternity Hospital per 1,000 live births. By 2003, at the beginning of the war, the number of birth defects skyrocketed to 23 per 1,000 live births — a 17-fold increase. Then the number of birth defects doubled again: By 2009, the maternity hospital witnessed a staggering 48 birth defects per 1,000 live births. In 2011, the last year for which data is available, there were 37 birth defects per 1,000 live births.

These figures are wildly out of proportion to the prevalence of birth defects elsewhere in the world. Hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain, is reported in 0.6 infants per 1,000 live births in California. In Basra, reported cases of hydrocephalus occurred six times more frequently. Neural tube defects (NTDs), brain and spinal cord conditions, are reported in one infant per 1,000 live births in the United States. In Basra, it is 12 per 1,000 live births, “the highest ever reported.”
What is the reason for this drastic increase in birth defects? The study proposes that exposure to metal contamination — notably mercury and lead — is to blame. To test their hypothesis, the scientists involved in the study conducted a case study of 56 families in the central Iraqi city of Fallujah, which witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Among the families, more than half of infants were born with a birth defect from 2007 to 2010. Most importantly, the study found that hair samples of babies born with birth defects contained five times more lead and six times more mercury than healthy children. This high level of metal contamination was also found in the parents of children with birth defects in Basra.

This is not the first study to suggest a connection between Iraq’s devastating war and high levels of birth defects. A 2010 paper published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported on a questionnaire presented to almost 5,000 residents of Fallujah about incidents of cancer, birth defects and infant mortality within their family. In addition to “alarming rates” of cancer, the study found infants between zero and 1 year old were dying at a rate of 80 per 1,000 births – compared, for instance, to 19.8 children per 1,000 in Egypt…

The University of Michigan study notes that lead and mercury are “toxic metals readily used in the manufacture of present-day bullets and other ammunition” – but does not prove a direct link between their use in Basra and Falluja and the rise in birth defects there. Instead, it concludes that the bombardment of those cities “may have exacerbated public exposure to metals, possibly culminating in the current epidemic.”

The studies are clear, however, that a health crisis is costing Iraqi infants their lives, and more research is needed to determine the cause and the cure. Until that is done, some uncomfortable questions about the lingering effects of the US-led war will remain.

More Iraqi babies suffer birth defects caused by US weapons

Yousif Hamed, right, his brother Anas Hamed and his sister Inas suffering from birth defects are pictured in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. (file photo)

Press TV

A recent study shows a spiraling numbers of birth defects, ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs, among Iraqi babies as a result of weapons used by the US and UK forces.

The new findings, published in the Environmental Contamination and Toxicology bulletin, report high rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination in the cities at the heart of the US-led military campaigns in Iraq, especially Fallujah and Basra.

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, said there is “compelling evidence” to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults.

The latest study found that more than half of all the Iraqi babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010, compared to one in 10 before the US-led onslaught in March 2003.

Moreover, over 45 percent of all pregnancies monitored ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 percent before Iraq invasion. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

The most common abnormalities discovered in Fallujah children are congenital heart defects as 24 out of 26 children were born with the defect.

Neural tube defects, which can result in spina bifida, was also common with 18 out of 46 children born with the deficiency.

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.

US military forces first bombarded Fallujah in April 2004 after four employees from the American mercenary company Blackwater were killed there.

Seven months later, Americans stormed the city for a second time. They used white phosphorus shells plus depleted uranium munitions, which have been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects.

Basra children with birth defects had three times more lead in their teeth than children living in areas of Iraq which were not subject to similar bombardments.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) is probing the impact on babies and families of toxic substances used in the bombardment of Iraqi cities, where thousands of civilians died.

The WHO report, due next month, is expected to show a “startling increase in deformities” in infants born after the Iraq war.

Those laboratory mice were children

by Karlos Zurutuza, source

At Fallujah hospital they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. “Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone,” says hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. “It’s all too shameful for them.”

“We recorded 672 cases in January but we know there were many more,” says Hadidi. He projects pictures on to a wall at his office: children born with no brain, no eyes, or with the intestines out of their body.

Facing a frozen image of a child born without limbs, Hadidi says parents’ feelings usually range between shame and guilt. “They think it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them. And it doesn’t help at all when some elder tells them it’s been ‘god’s punishment’.”

The pictures are difficult to look at. And, those responsible for all this have closed their eyes.

“In 2004 the Americans tested all kinds of chemicals and explosive devices on us: thermobaric weapons, white phosphorous, depleted uranium…we have all been laboratory mice for them,” says Hadidi, turning off the projector.
The months that followed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 saw persistent demonstrations against the occupation forces. But it wasn’t until 2004 when this city by the Euphrates river to the west of Baghdad saw its worst.

On Mar. 31 of that year, images of the dismembered bodies of four mercenaries from the U.S. group Blackwater hanging from a bridge circulated around the world. Al-Qaeda claimed the brutal action – and the local population paid the price for Operation Phantom Fury that followed. According to the Pentagon, this was the biggest urban battle since Hue (Vietnam, 1968).

The first crackdown came in April 2004 but the worst was in November of that year. Random house-to- house checks gave way to intense night bombings. The Americans said they used white phosphorus “to illuminate targets at night.” But a group of Italian journalists soon gave documentary evidence that white phosphorus had been just another of the banned weapons used against civilians by the U.S. troops.

The total number of victims is still unknown. In fact, many of them are not born yet.

Abdulkadir Alrawi, a doctor at Fallujah hospital, is just back from examining an intriguing new case. “This girl was born with the Dandy Walker syndrome. Her brain is split in two and I doubt she’ll survive.” As he speaks, the lights go off again in the whole hospital.

“We lack the most basic infrastructure, how do they want us to cope with an emergency like this?”

According to a study released by the Switzerland-based International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in July 2010, “the increases in cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio in Fallujah are significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.”

Researchers found there had been a 38-fold increase in leukaemia (17-fold in the Japanese locations). Reputed analysts such as Noam Chomsky have labelled such conclusions as “immensely more embarrassing than the Wikileaks leaks on Afghanistan.”

Samira Alaani, chief doctor at Fallujah hospital, took part in a study in close collaboration with the World Health Organization. Several tests conducted in London point to unusually large amounts of uranium and mercury in the hair root of those affected. That could be the evidence linking the use of prohibited weapons to the extent of congenital problems in Fallujah.

Other than the white phosphorus, many point to depleted uranium (DU), a radioactive element which, according to military engineers, significantly increases the penetration capacity of shells. DU is believed to have a life of 4.5 billion years, and it has been labeled the “silent murderer that never stops killing.” Several international organizations have called on NATO to investigate whether DU was also used during the Libyan war.

This month the Iraqi Health Ministry, in close collaboration with the WHO, will launch its first study ever on congenital malformations in the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Thi Qar, Suleimania, Diala and Basra.

Sandwiched between the borders of Iran and Kuwait, Basra sits above massive oil reserves. The population in this southernmost province has suffered fighting much more than any other region: from the war with Iran in the 1980s to the Gulf War in 1991 and the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

A study by the University of Baghdad pointed out that cases of birth defects had increased tenfold in Basra two years before the invasion in 2003. The trend is still on the rise.

Basra Children’s Hospital, specializing in pediatric oncology, opened in 2010. Funded with U.S. capital, this facility was initiated by former U.S. first lady Laura Bush. But like the hospital in Fallujah, this supposedly state-of-the-art facility lacks basic equipment.

“The X-ray machine spent over a year-and-a-half stored at Basra port due to an administrative dispute over who should pay port fees. Our children would die as they waited for radiotherapy treatment that did not come,” says Laith Shakr Al-Sailhi, father of a sick boy and director of the Children’s Cancer Association of Iraq.

“The waiting list for treatment in Baghdad is endless and time is never on the side of the patients,” says Al-Sailhi from the barracks that host his NGO headquarters next to the hospital.

“Besides, these children’s diseases also lead to economic ruin of their families. Those who can afford it pay up to 7,000 dollars in Syria or up to 12,000 dollars in Jordan for treatment. The cheapest option is Iran, with rates at an average of 5,000 dollars.

“Today, families are flocking to Tehran for their children to be treated. Many of them are sleeping in the streets because they can’t afford to pay a hotel room.”

Research links rise in Falluja birth defects and cancers to US assault

  • Defects in newborns 11 times higher than normal
  • ‘War contaminants’ from 2004 attack could be cause

by Martin Chulov, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 30 December 2010

A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.

The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports.

The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja’s genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys.

“We suspect that the population is chronically exposed to an environmental agent,” said one of the report’s authors, environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. “We don’t know what that environmental factor is, but we are doing more tests to find out.”

The report identifies metals as potential contaminating agents afflicting the city – especially among pregnant mothers. “Metals are involved in regulating genome stability,” it says. “As environmental effectors, metals are potentially good candidates to cause birth defects.

The findings are likely to prompt further speculation that the defects were caused by depleted uranium rounds, which were heavily used in two large battles in the city in April and November 2004. The rounds, which contain ionising radiation, are a core component of the armouries of numerous militaries and militias.

Their effects have long been called into question, with some scientists claiming they leave behind a toxic residue, caused when the round – either from an assault rifle or artillery piece – bursts through its target. However, no evidence has yet been established that proves this, and some researchers instead claim that depleted uranium has been demonstrably proven not to be a contaminant.

The report acknowledges that other battlefield residues may also be responsible for the defects. “Many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and foetal development,” the report says. “The devastating effect of dioxins on the reproductive health of the Vietnamese people is well-known.”

The latest Falluja study surveyed 55 families with seriously deformed newborns between May and August. It was conducted by Dr Samira Abdul Ghani, a paediatrician at Falluja general hospital. In May, 15% of the 547 babies born had serious birth defects. In the same period, 11% of babies were born at less than 30 weeks and 14% of foetuses spontaneously aborted.

The researchers believe that the figures understate what they describe as an epidemic of abnormalities, because a large number of babies in Falluja are born at home with parents reluctant to seek help from authorities.

One case documented in the report is of a mother and her daughter who after the 2004 battles both gave birth to babies with severe malformations. The second wife of one of the fathers also had a severely deformed baby in 2009.

“It is important to understand that under normal conditions, the chances of such occurrences is virtually zero,” said Savabieasfahani.

Iraq’s government has built a new hospital in Fallujah, but the city’s obstetricians have complained that they are still overwhelmed by the sheer number of serious defects. The US military has long denied that it is responsible for any contaminant left behind in the city, or elsewhere in Iraq, as it continues its steady departure from the country it has occupied for almost eight years.

It has said that Iraqis who want to file a complaint are welcome to do so. Several families interviewed by the Guardian in November 2009 said they had filed complaints but had not received replies.

The World Health Organisation is due to begin its research sometime next year. However, there are fears that an extensive survey may not be possible in the still volatile city that still experiences assassinations and bombings most weeks.

“An epidemic of birth defects is unfolding in Fallujah, Iraq,” said Savabieasfahani. “This is a serious public health crisis that needs global attention. We need independent and unbiased research into the possible causes of this epidemic.

We invite scientists and organisations to get in touch with us so that we may gain the strength to address this large global public health issue.”

City’s spike in deformity rates
Birth-defect rates in Falluja have become increasingly alarming over the past two years. In the first half of 2010, the number of monthly cases of serious abnormalities rose to unprecedented levels. In Falluja general hospital, 15% of the 547 babies born in May had a chronic deformity, such as a neural tune defect – which affects the brain and lower limbs – cardiac, or skeletal abnormalities, or cancers.

No other city in Iraq has anywhere near the same levels of reported abnormalities. Falluja sees at least 11 times as many major defects in newborns than world averages, the research has shown.

The latest report, which will be published next week in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, says Falluja has been infected by a chronic environmental contaminant. It focuses on depleted uranium, used in weaponry during two US assaults in 2004 as a possible cause of the contaminant. Scientific studies have so far established no link between the rounds, which contain ionising radiation to burst through armour and are commonly used on the battlefield.

The study focuses on metals as a potential conduit for the contaminant. It suggests a bodily accumulation of toxins is causing serious and potentially irreversible damage to the city’s population base, and calls for an urgent examination of metals in Falluja as well as a comprehensive examination of the city’s recent reproductive history.

US arms raise birth defects in Fallujah

Thu, 04 Mar 2010, Press TV

Iraqi doctors and parents accuse the US military of using unconventional arms in its operations in the city of Fallujah, causing a high level of birth defects among children in the city.

Hospital officials and people in Fallujah say they noticed two or three cases of birth defects each day since US forces crushed two uprisings in the city in 2004, the BBC quoted a doctor as saying on Thursday.

But the US military said it was not aware of any official reports showing an increase in birth defects in the area, repeating claims that it always took public health concerns about any population living in a battle zone “very seriously.”

“No studies to date have indicated environmental issues resulting in specific health issues,” said US Military Health System Communications Director Michael Kilpatrick, noting unexploded ordinance, including improvised explosive devises, as a recognized hazard.

Local people blame the weapons used by the US troops during the fighting while doctors in US-funded hospitals recently put up in Iraq seem too scared to speak out about the problem.

The Iraqi government does not want to create trouble for the Americans with the figures showing no more than two or three cases of birth defects a year more than normal in Fallujah.

But pediatricians speaking to the BBC confirmed as many as two or three cases of birth defect a day, which would amount to some 1,000 cases of such cases — mostly cardiac problems — a year.

While the doctors blame the ordeal on the highly sophisticated weapons the US troops used against Fallujah six years ago, it is further illuminating to know the rubble from the damaged buildings was bulldozed into the river which has been supplying Fallujans with their drinking water ever since.

Israeli ammunition ’causes birth defects’ and children share their experiences of of “Cast Lead”: videos

Israeli bombings of the Gaza Strip in 2006 and in the war this year have left a high concentration of toxic metals in its soil, according to the findings of a study by a weapons research group made up of independent doctors and scientists based in Italy.

Doctors in Gaza believe the toxic waste, along with the trauma of war, is the reason they’re seeing a high number of babies with birth defects.

Sherine Tadros reports from Gaza.

The first Israeli airstrikes of “Operation Cast Lead” took the people of Gaza by surprise.

School children were among those going about their ordinary lives on the day of the attack. Their world was flung quickly into chaos.

Some of them told Al Jazeera their recollections of the horror.

Birth defects increased in Gaza due to “Israel’s” use of chemical weapons

December 20, 2009

GAZA, (PIC)– Al-Dameer association for human rights said Sunday that there is an increase in miscarriage rates and in the number of babies born with birth defects and cancer due to the Israeli use of weapons containing radioactive and toxic materials during its latest war on the Gaza Strip.

In a report, the association affirmed that the health and environmental conditions in Gaza is getting worse day after days as a result of the use of internationally-banned weapons during the three-week war.

It warned that the use of chemical weapons in the densely-populated areas would cause a long-lasting tragedy and plague the future of coming generations, adding the health of one and a half million Palestinians in the Strip is still threatened because of the contamination of water, soil and air.

The report noted that during August, September and October 2008 there were 27 babies born with birth defects compared to 47 cases in 2009. These three months were compared with the same three months in 2009, which shows an increase in birth defects in aborted fetuses and newborns.

The report added that these cases were concentrated in Jabaliya, Beit Lahia, and Beit Hanoun as these areas witnessed the fiercest Israeli military aggression.

The association appealed to the international community to immediately act and pressure Israel to stop its violations against the Palestinian civilians and environment in Gaza and allow experts and delegations into post-war Gaza to examine the environmental and health situation.

The association stressed that experts should be sent to Gaza to examine the environmental fallout of Israel’s use of illegal weapons in order to protect the future generations from the coming unknown health and environmental disasters.

Huge rise in birth defects in Falluja

Watch video

Iraqi former battle zone sees abnormal clusters of infant tumours and deformities

by Martin Chulov in Falluja, guardian.co.uk, Friday 13 November 2009

Doctors in Iraq’s war-ravaged enclave of Falluja are dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The extraordinary rise in birth defects has crystallised over recent months as specialists working in Falluja’s over-stretched health system have started compiling detailed clinical records of all babies born.

Neurologists and obstetricians in the city interviewed by the Guardian say the rise in birth defects – which include a baby born with two heads, babies with multiple tumours, and others with nervous system problems – are unprecedented and at present unexplainable.

A group of Iraqi and British officials, including the former Iraqi minister for women’s affairs, Dr Nawal Majeed a-Sammarai, and the British doctors David Halpin and Chris Burns-Cox, have petitioned the UN general assembly to ask that an independent committee fully investigate the defects and help clean up toxic materials left over decades of war – including the six years since Saddam Hussein was ousted.

“We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,” said Falluja general hospital’s director and senior specialist, Dr Ayman Qais. “Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically.”

The rise in frequency is stark – from two admissions a fortnight a year ago to two a day now. “Most are in the head and spinal cord, but there are also many deficiencies in lower limbs,” he said. “There is also a very marked increase in the number of cases of less than two years [old] with brain tumours. This is now a focus area of multiple tumours.”

After several years of speculation and anecdotal evidence, a picture of a highly disturbing phenomenon in one of Iraq’s most battered areas has now taken shape. Previously all miscarried babies, including those with birth defects or infants who were not given ongoing care, were not listed as abnormal cases.

The Guardian asked a paediatrician, Samira Abdul Ghani, to keep precise records over a three-week period. Her records reveal that 37 babies with anomalies, many of them neural tube defects, were born during that period at Falluja general hospital alone.

Dr Bassam Allah, the head of the hospital’s children’s ward, this week urged international experts to take soil samples across Falluja and for scientists to mount an investigation into the causes of so many ailments, most of which he said had been “acquired” by mothers before or during pregnancy.

Other health officials are also starting to focus on possible reasons, chief among them potential chemical or radiation poisonings. Abnormal clusters of infant tumours have also been repeatedly cited in Basra and Najaf – areas that have in the past also been intense battle zones where modern munitions have been heavily used.

Falluja’s frontline doctors are reluctant to draw a direct link with the fighting. They instead cite multiple factors that could be contributors.

“These include air pollution, radiation, chemicals, drug use during pregnancy, malnutrition, or the psychological status of the mother,” said Dr Qais. “We simply don’t have the answers yet.”

The anomalies are evident all through Falluja’s newly opened general hospital and in centres for disabled people across the city. On 2 November alone, there were four cases of neuro-tube defects in the neo-natal ward and several more were in the intensive care ward and an outpatient clinic.

Falluja was the scene of the only two setpiece battles that followed the US-led invasion. Twice in 2004, US marines and infantry units were engaged in heavy fighting with Sunni militia groups who had aligned with former Ba’athists and Iraqi army elements.

The first battle was fought to find those responsible for the deaths of four Blackwater private security contractors working for the US. The city was bombarded heavily by American artillery and fighter jets. Controversial weaponry was used, including white phosphorus, which the US government admitted deploying.

Statistics on infant tumours are not considered as reliable as new data about nervous system anomalies, which are usually evident immediately after birth. Dr Abdul Wahid Salah, a neurosurgeon, said: “With neuro-tube defects, their heads are often larger than normal, they can have deficiencies in hearts and eyes and their lower limbs are often listless. There has been no orderly registration here in the period after the war and we have suffered from that. But [in relation to the rise in tumours] I can say with certainty that we have noticed a sharp rise in malignancy of the blood and this is not a congenital anomaly – it is an acquired disease.”

Despite fully funding the construction of the new hospital, a well-equipped facility that opened in August, Iraq’s health ministry remains largely disfunctional and unable to co-ordinate a response to the city’s pressing needs.

The government’s lack of capacity has led Falluja officials, who have historically been wary of foreign intervention, to ask for help from the international community. “Even in the scientific field, there has been a reluctance to reach out to the exterior countries,” said Dr Salah. “But we have passed that point now. I am doing multiple surgeries every day. I have one assistant and I am obliged to do everything myself.”

Additional reporting: Enas Ibrahim.

Birth defects in Gaza due to illegal weapons used by “Israel” during the war

Birth defects in Gaza due to illegal weapons used by Israel during the war

by Saed Bannoura

September 25, 2009 – IMEMC

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported Friday that eight months after the Israeli war ended, several birth defect cases were reported among the Gaza Strip newborns.

Dr. Mowaiya Hassanen, director of the Emergency department at the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, stated that several newborn babies have heart defects and abnormalities.

He said that such cases are caused by Israel’s use of illegal munitions against the civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Hassanen further said that five cases appeared after the war, and that illegal weapons were used by Israel in several areas in the coastal region, especially in Al Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza, Izbit Abed-Rabbo, and the Gaza valley, the Maan News Agency reported.

He said that several international researchers and specialists from France and Italy took samples of the mentions used by the Israeli army in Gaza, and found that the army used white phosphorous, and Dense Inert Metal Explosive which could cause biological defects on fetuses, Maan added.

Israeli offensive causes birth defects in Gaza

Sat, 26 Sep 2009, Press TV

Palestinian officials have warned about the spike in the number of birth defects in babies born in Gaza following the Israeli offensive on the coastal strip.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said on Friday that eight months after the war, the disastrous consequences of the three-week conflict continue to affect the lives of the people of Gaza.

According to Dr. Mowaiya Hassanen, an official in the ministry, Israel’s use of internationally banned weapons, including white phosphorus and depleted uranium, has resulted in a series of abnormalities in newborn babies in Gaza, ranging from heart defects to brain abnormalities.

Medical experts had earlier predicted that the illegal use of the chemical weapons in the densely-populated area would cause a long-lasting tragedy and plague the future generation.

According to Gaza health officials and human rights groups, Israeli forces killed over 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, in the offensive.

The revelation comes shortly after a UN Human Rights report accused Israel of deliberately violating international humanitarian law and using disproportionate force during its “Operation Cast Lead” against the people of Gaza at the beginning of the year.

“The Israeli operations were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population,” the fact-finding mission –led by former South African constitutional court judge, Richard Goldstone– said.