A recent study found that Iraqi children born near a U.S. military base are suffering an increase of birth defects due to radioactive contamination from depleted uranium rounds and burn pits. Elevated levels of thorium and uranium were discovered in the children’s hair and teeth.
Authored by a team of independent Iraqi and American researchers, the study analyzed 19 babies born with congenital anomalies at a hospital near Tallil Air Base, a U.S. military base near Nasiriyah. The researchers compared the results with a control group of 10 babies born without defects, including neurological problems, congenital heart disease, and paralyzed or missing limbs.
“We collected hair samples, deciduous (baby) teeth, and bone marrow from subjects living in proximity to the base,” Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the study’s lead researchers told The Intercept. “In all three tissues we see the same trend: higher levels of thorium.”
According to the study, the researchers noted, “In Iraq, war contamination is the result of dispensed bombs, bullets, detonation of chemical and conventional weapons, and burn-pit emissions by US bases. Increases in congenital anomalies were reported from Iraqi cities post-2003. These cities were heavily bombed and encircled by US bases with burn-pits. Thorium is a radioactive compound and a direct depleted-uranium decay-product. Radioactive materials, including depleted uranium, are routinely stored in US bases and they have been shown to leak into the environment.”
During the Iraq War, the U.S. military deployed depleted uranium rounds against enemy tanks and other armored vehicles. According to similar studies, children born in proximity to Iraqi battlefields suffer a higher rate of cancer and birth defects in the years following the war.
“The radioactive footprint of the military could be cleaned up if we had officials who wanted to do so,” said Savabieasfahani. “Unfortunately, even research into the problem of Iraqi birth defects has to be done by independent toxicologists, because the U.S. military and other institutions are not even interested in this issue.”
Although the U.S. military pledged to no longer use depleted uranium rounds in an air campaign against ISIS, a research group accused the U.S. military of deploying radioactive rounds in Syria.