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Iraq: War's legacy of cancer

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Two US-led wars in Iraq have left behind hundreds of tonnes of depleted uranium munitions and other toxic wastes.

Fallujah, Iraq - Contamination from Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions and other military-related pollution is suspected of causing a sharp rises in congenital birth defects, cancer cases, and other illnesses throughout much of Iraq.

Many prominent doctors and scientists contend that DU contamination is also connected to the recent emergence of diseases that were not previously seen in Iraq, such as new illnesses in the kidney, lungs, and liver, as well as total immune system collapse. DU contamination may also be connected to the steep rise in leukaemia, renal, and anaemia cases, especially among children, being reported throughout many Iraqi governorates.

There has also been a dramatic jump in miscarriages and premature births among Iraqi women, particularly in areas where heavy US military operations occurred, such as Fallujah.

Official Iraqi government statistics show that, prior to the outbreak of the First Gulf War in 1991, the rate of cancer cases in Iraq was 40 out of 100,000 people. By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000 people, and, by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the increasing trend continuing.

As shocking as these statistics are, due to a lack of adequate documentation, research, and reporting of cases, the actual rate of cancer and other diseases is likely to be much higher than even these figures suggest.

"Cancer statistics are hard to come by, since only 50 per cent of the healthcare in Iraq is public," Dr Salah Haddad of the Iraqi Society for Health Administration and Promotion told Al Jazeera. "The other half of our healthcare is provided by the private sector, and that sector is deficient in their reporting of statistics. Hence, all of our statistics in Iraq must be multiplied by two. Any official numbers are likely only half of the real number."

More at source: http://www.aljazeera...1951838638.html

Warning some graphic images at source

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It's s complex issue.

Depleted uranium is more commonly used than most people think. A lot of it is used as counterweights of all kinds (even in aircraft) and radiation shielding (medical and industrial) because it's denser than lead (19.1 g/cc vs 11.34 g/cc).

Chemically, DU's effects are quite similar to other commonly used heavy metals like lead. In artillery shells the risk is largely from inhaled dust or vapors from incendiary devices.

Radiologically, it's rafioactive because of trace isotopes and so low level carcinogenic, but is easily shielded by an over-coating. Compared to naturally occurring uranium, DU is only 60% as radioactive.

Separating out the DU effect on a middle easter population might be difficult because of the large phosphate deposites running from N. Africa eastward through the whole region. These deposits are rich in naturally occurring uranium (which is hotter than DU) and other radioisotopes, and they're rather shallow and surface mined. These surface mined phosphates are used for fertilizer, so natural uranium and other radioisotopes enter the food chain as a trace metal. Inhaled exposure is worse though as most of that ingested is excreted.

This inhaled fertilizer-radioisotope effect is seen worldwide in tobacco, and it's one of the drivers in lung cancer but is due to polonium210 which the burning volatilizes. It lodges in the airways, irradiating the tissues lining them with alpha particles.

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Thanks for the insight DocM, I didn't know anything about that, very interesting.

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Yeah, it's a great headline story but one with a lot of subtleties that make it not so black & white.

In tobacco the isotope contamination can be from fertilizer carried isotopes kicked up that sticks to the leaves, or in acidic soils heavy metals like these isotopes can enter solution and be taken up by the plants.

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At the end of the day the munitions used by western forces are incredibly harmful beyond their intended usage. Military forces shouldn't be using depleted uranium - that much is obvious. It seems particularly hypocritical what with all the fuss about chemical weapons in Syria. The same is true of landmines, which most countries have banned but that the US, China, Russia and Israel continue to use. In fact, here is the chart of countries that have banned landmines (in blue):

Ottawa_Treaty_members.svg

Notice how Europe, Canada, South America, Australasia and most of Africa have all banned their use.

What has been done by western countries to Iraq and Afghanistan is truly reprehensible and has done nothing to improve the lives of the people living there. The concerning thing is that there is the prospect of similar military operations being launched in Syria and Iran. War should be a last resort and?when it does occur?weaponry and tactics that adversely affect civilians should be banned - the technology and knowledge is available to fight much more ethical wars.

What's most depressing is that the purpose of such conflicts is to place puppet governments in countries rich in natural resources for economic gain. If the west was truly concerned about the welfare of civilians then it would have launched large scale operations in Sudan, Cambodia, Somalia, Guatemala, etc. The US and its allies (most notably the UK and France) need to stop meddling in the affairs of other countries or at the very minimum need clear criteria for such action. Unfortunately the UK and France are now pushing to supply arms to the Syria rebels, many of which have strong ties to terrorism and are from foreign countries, and the US is already actively engaged in supplying such weapons through the CIA.

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First I would poinf out that many modern western mines now are programmed to disable themselves after a set period of time, so they don't sit around for ages as in previous models. Th US stopped producing mines in 1997.

Also, DU is used by the militaries of many nations, but not just as projectiles but also as armor in the form of armor steel surrounding a DU core. It matters little if a DU projectile hits non-DU armor or if DU armor is hit by a non-DU projectile, the results are similar. What's annoying is when some countries rant about others using DU projectiles when they themselves use DU armor. Hypocrites.

And as I noted above, the toxic effects of DU munitions are pretty much shared by conventional munitions that use lead or other heavy metals in them. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

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Is that article seriously claiming Iraq's cancer rate in 1991 was 40 in 100,000 people? Seriously?

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First I would poinf out that many modern western mines now are programmed to disable themselves after a set period of time, so they don't sit areound for ages as in previous models. Th US stopped producing mines in 1997.

America stopped producing Claymores? The Geneva Convention forbids landmines however America gets around producing claymores because they can also be remote detonated.

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America stopped producing Claymores? The Geneva Convention forbids landmines however America gets around producing claymores because they can also be remote detonated.

That would be the Ottawa treaty and the US isn't a signatory & not bound by it..

Yup, and as you mentioned the Claymores are remote detonated - not dumb mines that can go off years later. Also, though we have stockpiles the US has been destroying most of its mines that don't self-disable. We do reserve the right to re-start production and do R&D to improve reliability of the destruct mechanism etc. Their use also requires he authorization of the SecDef or President, depending on the type.

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This is what I know PERSONALLY from my military service. Depleted Uranium is only bad under friction or powder form.

1. M1 tanks armor is made out of DU since it is the toughest known material to man at this point.

2. Depleted Uranium is also a munition used to make Sabot rounds. When you fire the round and it hits it's target, the round heats up drastically melting armor and allowing this pointed rod to melt through the armor and when it exits, if the vehicle is buttoned up, it sucks anything NOT tied down through the exit hole as it exits. This includes people.

3. The powder is terribly toxic and radioactive as the powder blankets around the area of impact, it can ride the wind and get into drinking water, or get all over pretty much anything.

This doesn't surprise me with the deaths it has caused since that was it was intended to do. more DU HERE

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Is that article seriously claiming Iraq's cancer rate in 1991 was 40 in 100,000 people? Seriously?

Many countries in the Middle East and Africa have very low rates of cancer. According to this Syria has a cancer rate of 72.2 per 100,000, with Sudan 81.5 per 100,000. Most cancers can be attributed to modern lifestyles, particularly the use of fertilisers, technology and the consumption of processed meats. Egypt is a good example of that, as the construction of the Aswan dam and the move from organic fertiliser to chemical fertiliser led to a dramatic increase in cancer rates - modern farming is very unhealthy. The most important thing to note is the sharp increase in the rate of cancer in Iraq as a result of US-led military conflicts.

First I would poinf out that many modern western mines now are programmed to disable themselves after a set period of time, so they don't sit around for ages as in previous models. Th US stopped producing mines in 1997.

Also, DU is used by the militaries of many nations, but not just as projectiles but also as armor in the form of armor steel surrounding a DU core. It matters little if a DU projectile hits non-DU armor or if DU armor is hit by a non-DU projectile, the results are similar. What's annoying is when some countries rant about others using DU projectiles when they themselves use DU armor. Hypocrites.

The point is that the US?along with several other major countries?has refused to support a ban on landmines, when most countries consider them unacceptable. Then again, we're talking about a country that violates the sovereignty of other nations and kills civilians with reckless abandon, in clear violation of international law. The US isn't interested in doing what's right - only what benefits its own interests.

As for the use of DU, I made no excuse for other countries using it. UK forces make use of it and that is equally wrong and there's no denying the role the UK played in building the case for military action, notably the fabricated intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. There's plenty of blame to go around.

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...modern farming is very unhealthy.

Yes, it is. Thanks for pointing that out. As for the article....nothing much surprises me anymore. It's still shameful though.

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