The indefinite postponement of the World Health Organisation’s report is alarming scientists and activists
Al Jazeera, 11 Aug 2013 13:28
Dr Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a native of Iran, is an environmental toxicologist based in Michigan. She is the author of over two dozen peer reviewed articles and the book, Pollution and Reproductive Damage (DVM 2009).
Large parts of the Middle East are now contaminated with war pollutants.
In Iraq, war debris continues to wear away and erode populated cities. Such debris includes the wreckage of tanks and armoured vehicles, trucks and abandoned military ammunitions, as well as the remains of bombs and bullets. Left unabated, the debris will act as dangerous toxic reservoirs; releasing harmful chemicals into the environment and poisoning people who live nearby.
Today, increasing numbers of birth defects are surfacing in many Iraqi cities, including Mosul, Najaf, Fallujah, Basra, Hawijah, Nineveh, and Baghdad. In some provinces, the rate of cancers is also increasing. Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects – some never described in any medical books – are weighing heavily on Iraqi families.
For more than a decade, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been approached by public health experts, asking it to take this issue seriously. After much delay, a seriously handicapped study was initiated by WHO and the Iraqi Ministry of Health in 2012 to investigate “prevalence and factors associated with congenital birth defects” in Iraq.
At long last, a BBC documentary aired in March 2013 offered a glimpse at the WHO’s report on the prevalence of birth defects in Iraq. A senior official at the Iraqi Ministry of Health, speaking on camera, told the BBC that “all studies done by the Ministry of Health prove with damning evidence that there has been a rise in birth defects and cancers” in Iraq. During the same interview, two other Ministry of Health researchers confirmed that rising levels of cancers and birth defects constitute a “big crisis” for the next generation of Iraqi children.