[ RadSafe ] Busby's Fallujah paper -- a critique
sjd at swcp.com
Sun Oct 23 21:43:20 CDT 2011
Oct. 23, 2011
In the preceding week or two, Chris Busby has delivered several
exhortations that critics of his co-authored paper "Uranium and other
contaminants in hair from the parents of children with congenital
anomalies in Fallujah, Iraq" should "read the paper."
I have read most of the paper, not all of it, and have done Busby
one better. I have read some of the source material he cited and am
ready to present a critique of the paper. According to Section 6 of
the paper, Chris Busby drafted the manuscript, so I will refer to it
as Busby's paper. (Later, I will have more to say about
authorship.) This is not an exhaustive critique of Busby's paper,
nor does it claim to be. The "fn. x" references in my critique refer
to the footnotes to Busby's Fallujah paper.
Busby begins by saying there have been "reports of increased rates
of cancer and congenital anomaly (CA) from Fallujah, Iraq." He
supports this claim (fn. 1) by quoting a paper he co-authored, and by
quoting a paper (fn. 2) that reported on a study done on a cohort of
four families. He does not explain how these four families were
chosen, nor are any data given about exposures to any toxins. He
invokes Agent Orange as a "war contaminant" having the "potential" to
interfere with the development of the in utero child. The study was
funded by the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War.
Busby writes that after the first Gulf war a research effort focused
on DU as a "potential cause of increases in congenital anomaly (CA)
and cancer rates." In support of this, he cites a one page "News"
article in the British Medical Journal (fn. 5). This article
includes a picture of a boy, perhaps ten years of age, with an
"unknown" skin condition that was attributed to possible exposure to
depleted uranium. The BMJ received approximately eight letters
commenting on this article. Four of them pointed out that the boy
suffered from a rare, inherited, (usually) autosomal recessive skin
disorder, which the writers named.
One of the writers noted that this photo had been used before in
discussions of DU. Another asked the question "How could one
attribute an unknown condition to a specific cause?" Eventually,
Richard Smith, editor of the BMJ, published a letter apologizing for
the article and the photograph. Malcolm Aitken, author of the "News"
article, published an apologetic and explanation for the article. He
invoked anecdotal evidence of alleged DU-related illnesses published
in the Independent (by Robert Fisk), and in The Guardian (by Maggie
O'Kane). (I believe I have posted a link to RADSAFE to Fisk's
article.) Aitken also invoked Dan Fahey as a reliable source about DU.
In fn. 9, Busby cites a study by Doyle et al. that "reported rates
of congenital malformation" in a group of children of male and female
UK veterans of the Gulf war. This was a self-reported retrospective
reproductive study with a comparison group. When clinical diagnoses
were obtained the associations with Gulf war service and
malformations tended to "weaken". On page 84 the authors discuss the
problem of reporting bias, and on page 85 they say it is "important"
to further investigate their findings and those of similar
studies. They also write, "However, there are severe limitations on
what can be interpreted from data gathered retrospectively with
little or no contemporaneous individual exposure information."
Busby also uses fn. 10 in support of his claim of increased rates of
congenital malformations. This paper, published in Birth Defects
Research, notes an increased rate of some deleterious conditions. It
then says (in the Abstract), "we did not have the ability to
determine if the excess was caused by inherited or environmental
factors, or was due to chance because of myriad reasons, including
Let's skip ahead now to fn. 30, which Busby uses to support his
claim that "Uranium may be considered theoretically to show enhanced
levels of genomic damage" relative to exposure levels. The paper
cited (in Environmental Health Perspectives) reports on an in vitro
study and says, "Microdosimetry studies demonstrate that few [amount
given] cells are actually hit by alpha particles emitted from
DU. This argues for a negligible role for radiation effects from
DU-UO2 2+ exposure."
Another study (fn. 36) reports on the results of a study of a cohort
of 16 volunteers that was funded by grants from the World Depleted
Uranium Center in Berlin. The authors note that the volunteers were
exposed to more than DU.
Busby's fn. 39 cites a study on uranium in hair conducted on a few
monks in a monastery in northern Greece. In their conclusions, the
authors write, "From the results obtained in the present study, . . .
it can be concluded that, from the radiochemical point of view, the
monks were not exposed to uranium."
In the last example I will give, Busby (fn. 44) cites a review paper
in the British Medical Bulletin discussing the effects of
environmental pollution on congenital anomalies. This review paper
mentions Iraq once, in connection with the methyl mercury poisoning
there in 1971 1972.
Now for some general comments about Busby's References. His paper
has 63 footnotes. Eight of these (13%) are material written by
Busby. Three of them, and the Fallujah paper, were published in the
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public
Health. He uses a paper by Han Kang. He uses the Chernobyl article
that was published by the NY Academy of Sciences, and was eventually
disclaimed by the same Academy. He ignores or is unaware of the
letters in the BMJ about the boy with the "unknown" skin condition
(fn. 5). He quotes from some of the DU literature I debunked here in
2006 when James Salsman and I had our battle over DU. (Rita Hindin's
paper, for instance.)
To return to authorship, in Section 6 of the Fallujah paper, Busby
says, "All authors read and approved the final manuscript[.]" I
wonder how carefully they read it? Did they double-check any of the
References? Or did they merely give it a hurried once over and
scribble "approved" on it?
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