[ RadSafe ] FW: Cancer and birth defects in Iraq: the nuclear legacy

Ludwig E. Feinendegen feinendegen at gmx.net
Wed May 22 09:42:06 CDT 2013

Dear Bobby:  It is embarrassing to read the message you forwarded.  There
are no numbers of people, no doses, just statements of "dramatically
increased" cancer rates and birth defects.  Let us wait for reliable data
and then analyze them.  From what I know about depleted uranium the claims
in the message are quite doubtful.  Best, Ludwig  

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] Im Auftrag von Scott, Bobby
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 22. Mai 2013 16:01
An: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Betreff: [ RadSafe ] FW: Cancer and birth defects in Iraq: the nuclear

Hi All,
I thought this may be of interest.
B. R. Scott
LRRI, Albuquerque, NM, USA


From: Alan Crompton [mailto:A331221694 at distribution.cision.com]
Sent: Wed 5/22/2013 6:10 AM
To: Scott, Bobby
Subject: Cancer and birth defects in Iraq: the nuclear legacy

Cancer and birth defects in Iraq: the nuclear legacy

Assessing the impact of depleted uranium pollution on the environment and
public health

Ten years after the Iraq war of 2003 a team of scientists based in Mosul,
northern Iraq, have detected high levels of uranium contamination in soil
samples at three sites in the province of Nineveh which, coupled with
dramatically increasing rates of childhood cancers and birth defects at
local hospitals, highlight the ongoing legacy of modern warfare to civilians
in conflict zones.

The radioactive element uranium is widely dispersed throughout the earth's
crust and is much sought after as a fuel for nuclear power plants and for
use in weapons. Depleted uranium (DU), commonly used in modern munitions
such as defensive armour plating and armour-piercing projectiles, is 40 per
cent less radioactive than natural uranium, but remains a significant and
controversial danger to human health.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sets a maximum uranium exposure of 1
millisievert (mSv) per year for the general public, but environmental
scientists at the University of Mosul and the Institute of Forest Ecology,
Universitaet für Bodenkultur (BOKU), Vienna, Austria, led by Riyad Abdullah
Fathi have measured significant levels of uranium in soil samples from three
sites in the province of Nineveh in the north of Iraq. Writing in the
journal Medicine, Conflict and Survival, Fathi and colleagues link their
findings with dramatic increases in cancers reported to the Mosul Cancer
Registry and the Iraqi national cancer registry (which began collecting data
in 1975).

They conclude that:

"The Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003 left a legacy of pollution with DU in many
regions of Iraq. The effects of these munitions may be affecting the general
health of Iraqi citizens, manifesting in an increase in cancers and birth

They also warn that, even though some of the contamination measured in this
study is specifically linked to known sites, it can be easily spread widely
in the air, soil and water, particularly as dust in windstorms.

Their report "Environmental pollution by depleted uranium in Iraq with
special reference to Mosul and possible effects on cancer and birth defect
rates" begins with a literature review that collates health-related data
from a range of sources, including a report by the WHO (in 2003), which
states that childhood cancers - particularly leukaemia - are ten times
higher in Iraq than in other industrialised countries.

Although there is already significant evidence of cancers and related
illnesses in adults (particularly war veterans), the authors emphasise that
it is the dramatic rise in the incidence of cancer and birth defects in
children under 15 years of age since the second Gulf War that points to the
terrible legacy of DU weaponry. Childhood cancers are now some five times
higher than before the two Gulf Wars (currently around 22 children per
100,000, compared with approximately 4 children per 100,000 in 1990).

The focal point of their scientific study was three sites near Mosul:
Adayah, a landfill for radioactive waste; Rihanyah, a former research centre
for nuclear munitions (disused since 1991); and Damerchy, a small village on
the Tigris River (about 10km north of Mosel), which was a scene of fighting
in the 2003 conflict. Particularly high levels of uranium were found at
Rihanyah where storage ponds of liquid and solid waste from uranium
processing are still a source of radioactive pollution. The accumulation of
uranium in wild plants (principally the shrub Lagonychium farctum) was noted
in Damerchy, where it is thought to have entered the food chain and is
linked to the death of numerous head of cattle.

The team acknowledge that there are numerous other factors that impact on
the data for cancer rates in the wider Iraqi population, including
population increases and possible inaccuracies due to reluctance to register
congenital malformations and deaths or poor administration in hospitals
(although almost 70 per cent of births took place outside hospitals).

Nevertheless, with the WHO predicting that global cancer levels will rise by
50 per cent between 2003 and 2020, the presence of so much carcinogenic
material across Iraq suggests that the public health legacy of the two Gulf
Wars is only going to get worse.

* Read the full article, free of charge, online: at

Alan Crompton, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

Email: Alan.Crompton at tandf.co.uk

Tel: +44 (20) 701 74225

About Taylor & Francis Group

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