Apr. 28, 2005 – Health officials in Iraq say the number of babies born with deformities has increased 20 percent since 2003. Some researchers suggest that polluted water containing radiation, which was absorbed by mothers, may be the primary cause.
Health officials say most cases are being reported in southern Iraq, particularly the cities of Basra and Najaf. The United States military used weapons that contained depleted uranium (DU), a chemically toxic and radioactive heavy metal, in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War and again in the 2003 invasion.
Dr. Ibraheem Al-Jabouri, a scientist at Baghdad University, told the UNâ€™s IRIN news agency, "In my experiments we have found some cases where the mother or father were suffering from pollution from weapons used in the South and we believe that it is affecting newborn babies in the country."
Dr. Nawar Ali, also a researcher at the University, said that 650 babies have been born with deformities in government hospitals since August 2003, an increase of 20 percent. He also cautioned that "private hospitals were not included in the study, so the number could be higher."
Fadela Chaib, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, told IRIN, "I have heard about cancer caused by pollution, but deformities in newborn babies is something new." Iraqi and international physicians have long suspected DU might be behind a similar spike in birth deformities that followed the 1991 war.