Birth defects in Fallujah ‘on the rise since U.S. operation’

Daily Mail – March 5, 2010

A high level of children in Fallujah, Iraq, are born with birth defects, according to doctors and parents.

They blame the increase in deformities among children on weapons used by the U.S. during fierce battles in the city in 2004.

One hospital doctor told the BBC they now see two or three cases of birth defects every day.

The rise in abnormalities, which include babies being born with two heads, multiple tumours and nervous system problems, has been noticed by specialists working in Fallujah’s over-stretched health system.

The U.S. military strongly refutes the claim, saying it always takes public health concerns ‘very seriously’.

‘No studies to date have indicated environmental issues resulting in specific health issues,’ U.S. military health system communications director Michael Kilpatrick told the BBC.

‘Unexploded ordinance, including improvised explosive devises, are a recognised hazard,’ he added.

Iraqi doctors are reticent to talk about the problem, fearing they will create trouble for the U.S. military.

The official line is that Falluja, which lies 40 miles west of Baghdad, has only two or three cases of birth defects a year more than normal, according to the BBC.

But local people believe toxic materials left over from the 2004 fighting entered the water supply in Fallujah after rubble from damaged buildings was bulldozed into the river.

Controversial weaponry was used during the bombing, including white phosphorus.

Last year a group of Iraqi and British officials called on the UN to ask that an independent committee fully investigate the defects and help clean up toxic materials left over after decades of war.

‘We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,’ Falluja general hospital’s director and senior specialist, Dr Ayman Qais told the Guardian.

‘Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically.’

‘Most are in the head and spinal cord, but there are also many deficiencies in lower limbs,’ he said.

‘There is also a very marked increase in the number of cases of less than two years [old] with brain tumours. This is now a focus area of multiple tumours.’