Remember Basra? Remember Fallujah? They were two Iraqi cities that endured extensive fighting when American and Coalition forces moved in. The guns fell silent years ago but the casualties continue to mount only now, instead of shrapnel wounds, the killers are cancers and birth defects and the finger is being pointed at the Americans love for "DU" or depleted uranium munitions.
|US Tanks Rolling Into Fallujah|
There are several thousand graves in the cemetery, and another five to 10 are added every day. The large number of graves is certainly conspicuous, says Bin Said. But, he adds, there "really isn't an explanation" for why there are so many dead and deformed newborn babies in Basra.
Others, though, do have an idea why. According to a study published in September in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, a professional journal based in the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, there was a sevenfold increase in the number of birth defects in Basra between 1994 and 2003. Of 1,000 live births, 23 had birth defects.
Similarly high values are reported from Fallujah, a city that was fiercely contested in the 2003 war. According to the Heidelberg study, the concentration of lead in the milk teeth of sick children from Basra was almost three times as high as comparable values in areas where there was no fighting.
Never before has such a high rate of neural tube defects ("open back") been recorded in babies as in Basra, and the rate continues to rise. The number of hydrocephalus ("water on the brain") cases among newborns is six times as high in Basra as it is in the United States, the study concludes.
...When DU explodes, it produces a very fine uranium dust. When children play near wrecked tanks, they can absorb this dust through their skin, their mouths and their airways. A 2002 study at the University of Bremen in northern Germany found that chromosomal changes had occurred in Gulf war veterans who had come into contact with uranium ammunition.
...In the United States, no major newspaper has yet published a story on the genetic disorders in Fallujah. Britain's Guardian, on the other hand, criticized the silence of "the West," calling it a moral failure, and cited chemist Chris Busby, who said that the Fallujah health crisis represented "the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied." Busby is the co-author of two studies on the subject.