Q & A: Severe Birth Defects Soar in Post-War Iraq
International Press Agency
October 26, 2012
Julia Kallas interviews MOZHGAN SAVABIEASFAHANI, an Environmental Toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health
UNITED NATIONS, – A new study confirms what many Iraqi doctors have been saying for years – that there is a virtual epidemic of rare congenital birth defects in cities that suffered bombing and artillery and small arms fire in the U.S.-led attacks and occupations of the country.
The hardest hit appear to be Fallujah (2004), a city in central Iraq, and Basra in the south (December 1998, March and April 2003).
Records show that the total number of birth defects observed by medical staff at Al Basrah Maternity Hospital more than doubled between 2003 and 2009. In Fallujah, between 2007 and 2010, more than half the children born there had some form of birth defect, compared to less than two percent in 2000.
Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a lead author of the latest study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, entitled “Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities,” reports that in the case study of 56 Fallujah families, metal analysis of hair samples indicated contamination with two well-known neurotoxic metals: lead and mercury.
IPS correspondent Julia Kallas spoke with Savabieasfahani about Iraq’s health crisis and the long-term consequences of exposure to metals released by bombs and munitions.