Sunday, February 21, 2010

High Child Leukemia Rate Found In Basra

Map of Basra province

As reported before, in January 2010 a study done by the Iraqi ministries of Environment, Health and Science, found 42 contaminated sites throughout Iraq. One of them was in Basra, which reported high rates of cancer and birth defects. A new report done by the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, and Basra University has found similar results. In an article published in the American Journal of Public Health, they write that leukemia in children in Basra had almost tripled in the last fifteen years. The rate went from 3 per 100,000 children to 8.5 per 100,000 children. In neighboring Kuwait, which is just across the border, the rate is only 2 per 100,000 children, and in Oman, 2-3 per 100,000.

The possible causes of such an alarming increase in cancer is fires from oil fields that were set during the previous wars, fumes from oil and gas that children sell in the province, nerve agents and pesticides, and the use of depleted uranium munitions by the U.S. in the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. That coincides with the January Iraqi reported that hypothesized that oil leaks and depleted uranium might be causes for the health problems as well. Since Iraq’s health system has been depleted by years of sanctions, wars, and government inefficiencies, it’s unknown what Baghdad will do about these studies.


Chulov, Martin, “Iraq littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination, study finds,” Guardian, 1/22/10

Lister, Sam, “Nerve agents could be to blame for tripling of child leukaemia in Basra,” Times of London, 2/19/10

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