[ RadSafe ] Busby's Fallujah paper -- a critique Thank you

parthasarathy k s ksparth at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Oct 24 03:38:38 CDT 2011

Dear Steven,

Thank you for the trouble taken to prepare this note. What else can be done to counteract "activist scientists" who have their own agenda?

To the best of my knowledge, Busby's paper has not yet reached the Indian scene. The day may not be far off. We are currently facing  serious public protests against the first Generation 3 + reactor about to be commissioned in one of the southern States of India. 

One of the journalists have already misinterpreted an article by two biostatisticians to show that nuclear reactors cause "abnormally high rates of leukemia among children, and higher incidence of cancers, congenital deformities, and immunity and organ damage"!


From: Steven Dapra <sjd at swcp.com>
To: radsafe at agni.phys.iit.edu
Sent: Monday, 24 October 2011, 8:13
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Busby's Fallujah paper -- a critique

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 multiple comparisons."

    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?

Steven Dapra

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