15-fold rise in birth defects in Fallujah

There has been a 15-fold rise in birth defects and early childhood cancers in the war-ravaged enclave of Fallujah, the site of two major battles after the Iraq invasion, doctors say.

Dr. Ayman Qais said that before the war began in 2003, there were sporadic numbers of deformities in babies, but now the frequency of deformities “is increasing dramatically.”

“We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,” Dr. Qais added.

Doctors of Fallujah’s over-stretched health system say they are unsure of what is behind the spike in birth defects, but suggest it may be linked to the toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The city was the site of some of the worst fighting of the war, including a battle in which the United States admitted to using white phosphorus in 2004.

There have also been unconfirmed reports that US troops used depleted uranium munitions in Fallujah.

Neurologists and obstetricians in the city interviewed by the British daily The Guardian say the rise in birth defects — which includes a baby born with two heads, babies with multiple tumors, and others with nervous system problems — is unprecedented and at present unexplainable.

Iraqi and British officials and doctors have petitioned the United Nations to set up an international committee to investigate the sharp rise in birth defects and to clean up toxic substances in Fallujah.

Clusters of congenital defects have also been found in Basra and Najaf, which began after the 2003 invasion.

Doctors say that detailed clinical records of all babies born are being compiled.

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