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Birth Defect Crisis and “Toxic Legacy” From U.S. Invasion of Iraq

Near Talill Air Base in Iraq, an alarming number of newborns are experiencing severe, and occasionally life-threatening, birth defects. In addition, Fallujah, Iraq, has seen an increase in child mortality, leukemia, and cancer. Read on to learn more about the cause of the crisis and the impact that it has had on communities.

What is the cause of the birth defects?

In 2003, the United States army invaded and started the war in Iraq. For almost 2 years, war was waged to free Iraq and its people. In 2005, Suddam Hussein was captured and put on trial for crimes against the people of Iraq.

Since then, U.S. forces have continued to be withdrawn from the country, with around 3,000 currently deployed to Iraq.

One particular U.S. base has been linked to birth defects in local children, according to a study published by M. Savabieasfahani, et al. (The entire study is linked down below in this article’s bibliography.)

Over the past decade, war in the Middle East has resulted in fired bullets the bombings of civilians, both of which release toxic metals into the air.

Researchers went to Bint Al-Huda Maternal and Child Teaching Hospital in the Nasiriyah region of Iraq and examined 19 children lived near…Tallil Air Base…and 10 children who lived away from the base, comparing the kids’ contaminant levels and health problems…They found that the most severe birth defects and the highest levels of thorium—a radioactive byproduct of depleted uranium—were found in children living closest to the United States’ Tallil Air Base.

Brian Bienkowski (Environmental Health News)

What is the impact of the toxic metals?

The toxic metals released into the air in these regions have been shown to contribute to birth defects, some of which are severe and rehabilitating. Deformed limbs, heart diseases, and brain defects (such as spina bifida) have all been seen in the Tallil Air Base region.

Dr. Basher, co-author of the study mentioned above, noted that “some [children] complained and suffered difficulties in school activity in writing because [they] have no hand[s] or deformed hands.”

“Toxic Legacy”

A number of studies have been performed on the air quality in Iraq and how the war impacted it. These studies found that the U.S.-Iraq war caused serious environmental pollution.

2007 UN report found that between 1,000 and 2,000 metric tons of depleted uranium were fired in Iraq in 2003 alone. This 2011 report found that for every 1 person killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, around 250,000 bullets were fired.

In addition, there are more than 500 U.S. military bases in Iraq. Many of these bases detonate explosive devices, store radioactive materials and compounds, and store uranium-containing ammo. Although these activities have been proven to be dangerous and harmful to the environment, many of these bases continue to use burn pits to dispose of items such as explosives, batteries, and plastic products.

Fallujah, Iraq

Fallujah, Iraq, is another site of repeated bombing by the hands of the United States. Fallujah has since been plagued with increased child mortality rates, cancer, and leukemia.

There have been anecdotal reports of increases in birth defects and cancer in Fallujah, Iraq blamed on the use of novel weapons (possibly including depleted uranium) in heavy fighting which occurred in that town between US led forces and local elements in 2004.

Busby, et al.

The United States has admitted to using white phosphorus in its attack on Fallujah. White phosphorus “may cause burns and irritation, liver, kidney, heart, lung, or bone damage, and death,” according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.


Sources:

https://theintercept.com/2019/11/25/iraq-children-birth-defects-military/
https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/war-in-iraq-begins
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/9/us-cites-great-sacrifice-as-it-pulls-2200-troops-out-of-iraq#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20military%20on,that%20had%20been%20long%20expected.
https://www.ehn.org/is-the-toxic-legacy-of-the-iraq-war-deforming-children-near-us-bases-2640288680.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922729/
https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts103.pdf
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/toxic-legacy-of-us-assault-on-fallujah-worse-than-hiroshima-2034065.html
https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/17462/UNEP_Iraq.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/us-forced-to-import-bullets-from-israel-as-troops-use-250000-for-every-rebel-killed-28580666.html


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Anthony Rebello (he/him/his)

By Anthony Rebello (he/him/his)

Anthony Rebello is 16 years old and a rising junior at a number of online high schools. He lives in North Carolina and enjoys climbing in his free time. Anthony is passionate about helping those less fortunate than himself and started W.A.A. as a way to raise awareness for communities and people around the world. He wants to go to medical school and work as an Emergency Physician overseas in impoverished communities.

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