Troops could be at cancer risk in Iraq

Australian troops being sent to Iraq in May could be at risk of contracting cancer or conceiving deformed children, doctors warned.

The Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) has written to Defence Minister Robert Hill advising him against deploying troops to the Al Muthanna province in southern Iraq.

Research teams have found depleted uranium wherever the US attacked Iraqi tanks using weapons tipped with the toxic nuclear waste, Association vice president Dr Gillian Deakin said.

“United Nations statistics for southern Iraq where depleted uranium was used heavily in 1991 reveal a seven-fold increase in cancer rates between 1989 and 1994,” Dr Deakin said.

“Congenital deformities of types virtually never seen in other circumstances are occurring in newborns in Iraq in areas where depleted uranium is present.”

There is no proof that depleted uranium – nuclear waste recycled to make new bombs – causes the cancers and deformities.

However, MAPW said alarm was growing among the international medical community over its possible effects on human health.

“The South Australians sensibly refused to have it stored in concrete in remote parts of their state, yet our government is willing to risk exposing our troops to it,” Dr Deakin said.

“MAPW calls on the government to refuse the participation of Australian troops in any military activity where depleted uranium might be used or in any location where depleted uranium has been used in the past.”

Four hundred and fifty Australian soldiers will leave Australia in stages by sea and air for southern Iraq between mid-April and mid-May.

Comment was being sought from Senator Hill and the Australian Defence Force.