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A new study reports a “staggering rise” in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war. High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.
There is “compelling evidence” to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research. American forces later admitted that they had used white phosphorus shells, although they never admitted to using depleted uranium, which has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects. The new findings, published in the Environmental Contamination and Toxicology bulletin, will bolster claims that US and Nato munitions used in the conflict led to a widespread health crisis in Iraq.