A new study by the University of Michigan shows a "staggering rise" in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the U.S.-led war on Iraq, according to The Independent.
High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiraling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.
There is "compelling evidence" to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.
U.S. marines first bombarded Fallujah in April 2004 after four employees from the American security company Blackwater were killed, their bodies burned and dragged through the street, with two of the corpses left hanging from a bridge.
Seven months later, the marines stormed the city for a second time, using some of the heaviest U.S. air strikes deployed in Iraq. American forces later admitted that they had used white phosphorus shells, although they never admitted to using depleted uranium, which has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects.
The new findings, published in the Environmental Contamination and Toxicology bulletin, will bolster claims that US and NATO munitions used in the conflict led to a widespread health crisis in Iraq.
They are the latest in a series of studies that have suggested a link between bombardment and a rise in birth defects. Their preliminary findings, in 2010, prompted a World Health Organisation inquiry into the prevalence of birth defects in the area. The WHO's report, out next month, is widely expected to show an increase in birth defects after The new research, which looked at the health histories of 56 families in Fallujah, also examined births in Basra, in southern Iraq, attacked by British forces in 2003.
Researchers found more than 20 babies out of 1,000 were born with defects in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital in 2003, a number that is 17 times higher than recorded a decade previously. In the past seven years, the number of malformed babies born increased by more than 60 per cent; 37 out of every 1,000 are now born with defects.
The report's authors link the rising number of babies born with birth defects in the two cities to increased exposure to metals released by bombs and bullets used over the past two decades. Scientists who studied hair samples of the population in Fallujah found that levels of lead were five times higher in the hair of children with birth defects than in other children; mercury levels were six times higher. Children with defects in Basra had three times more lead in their teeth than children living in non-impacted areas.
Dr Savabieasfahani said that for the first time, there is a "footprint of metal in the population" and that there is "compelling evidence linking the staggering increases in Iraqi birth defects to neuro-toxic metal contamination following the repeated bombardments of Iraqi cities". She called the "epidemic" a "public health crisis". The Independent
FACTS & FIGURES
The U.S. invasion of Iraq has so far taken hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in damage for the Middle Eastern country.
There is no agency that keeps track of accurate numbers of Iraqis killed but some local sources put the number well over one million.
According to icasualties.org, the total number of U.S. military fatalities, as a result of the 2003 attack and the following occupation, stands at nearly 4,500.
Costofwar.com says American taxpayers have incurred at least $807 billion due to the invasion of Iraq.