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Severe birth defects 'linked' to US army base in Iraq, study reveals

The US army targeted Nasiriyah in the early 1990s and in 2003 [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 November, 2019

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A newly-published study has added to growing evidence that the United States' use of weapons in Iraq is leading to severe birth defects among local children.
Children living near a US army base in southern Iraq have high levels of toxic metals in their bodies and are more prone to birth defects, according to a newly-published study.

The study, which was conducted by a group of independent US and Iraqi researchers published in the journal Environmental Pollution, adds to mounting evidence that toxic pollutants released by munitions - both chemical and conventional - are having an adverse effect more than a decade and a half after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

Among the disorders observed among the children are deformed limbs, spina bifida and severe heart defects.

"The past decade of war in the Middle East evinces that overwhelming amounts of toxic metals have been injected into the Iraqi environment through thousands of bombings and millions of expended bullets," the researchers say in the study.

Significantly, the study found that those living closest to the Tallil Air Base had the most severe birth defects.

The US army has used open air burn pits at the airbase since the 2003 invasion, while nearby Nasiriyah was the site of US operations during the first Gulf War and in 2003.

"All of those things appear to be related – there's an association between place of residence and distance to a military base and the measures of uranium and thorium in the children," Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an independent environmental toxicologist, was quoted by Environmental Health News as saying.

"The farther you live from a base the less chance of birth defects."

The US army has come under sustained criticism for its use of environmental pollutants during its military operations.

In 2017, the US army confirmed to Foreign Policy that it fired 5,265 armor-piercing depleted uranium (DU) rounds at around 350 oil tankers, mainly driven by civilians near Deir az-Zour, between 16 and 22 November, 2015.

This was despite the ammunition having been embargoed after a study showed half of the babies born in Fallujah, Iraq in 2012 suffered birth defects.

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