The war in Iraq is finally over – new leadership is in place and the country has begun to rebuild. But the effects of the Iraq War continue to have a deadly impact. Contamination from depleted uranium used in U.S. munitions has resulted in an increase of cancer and birth complications throughout the region.

Toxic waste, as well as radiation from U.S. bombings, still linger in the war-ravaged nation.  Chris Busby, author of “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ration in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009,” says Iraq’s medical records show “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”

There has been a startlingly rise in premature births, infertility and congenital birth defects. Doctors report children born with tumors, deformities, multiple limbs and underdeveloped nervous systems.  Mothers sometimes do not survive through the delivery process due to unexpected complications.  Most babies born with these extreme abnormalities do not survive. Dr. Alani, who has been studying the effects of radiation in Iraq, reports that 14.7 percent of all babies born in Fallujah have birth defects.  In post-atomic bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the birth defect rate was about 2 percent.

Exposure to lead and mercury during the 1991 bombings and the 2003 invasion have also led to increased cancer rates.  Busby reports that childhood cancer in Fallujah, Iraq is 12 times higher since the heavy bombing started around 2004.  Basra University reports that leukemia in children has increased by 22 percent, and the number of patients with breast cancer has increased 19 percent since the 2004 invasion.  Cancer is now the leading cause of death in southern Iraq, according to a report published by the Basra University Medical College.

So far, the United States has refused to acknowledge the damage caused by its chemical weapons. No compensation or assistance has been provided for Iraq, similar to refusals to clean up Agent Orange after the Vietnam War.

The medical impact of war will not go away any time soon.  When depleted uranium bombs explode, they produce a fine dust containing uranium.  The uranium is absorbed by plants, contaminating the food and water supply. To make matters worse, Iraq’s infamous sandstorms can also  stir up the uranium, making the contaminants airborne. It will be 4,000 years before the depleted uranium will decay to a safe level.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Al Jazeera, Fire Dog Lake
Photo: Inter Press Service

How to avoid getting sick overseas
As any traveler knows, after a long plane, train, and/or bus ride, all you want to do is take a shower, change your clothes, take a nap and get some grub! The last thing you want is to wind up back in bed or the bathroom with a sour stomach…or worse, the hospital. While there are several sources of health risk to travelers, the most common is contaminated food and water. Travelers trying exotic and exciting foods should follow these simple rules: cook it, wash it, peel it or forget it! And do not forget about ice. Freezing water does not remove contaminants and even alcoholic drinks are risky with contaminated ice.

There are several other sources of risk: poor sanitation and other diseases. Before you go, check out the World Health Organization (WHO) and with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for risks at your destination. It is also extremely important to get any vaccinations recommended for your destination. The CDC has detailed documentation on requirements for each country.

Many diseases and infections are transferable between people. Sick people are also an indication that there may be a disease source near by—such as insects or poor sanitation. It is also important to be aware of how much sun/cold/oxygen you are exposed to. Too much sun exposure can lead to severe sunburns and dehydration. Sun block is expensive and not a common feature in many developing countries’ convenience stores. Observe local customs for avoiding the extreme weather and bring sunblock with you.

Most importantly for food, however, cook it, wash it, peel it or forget it.

– Katherine Zobre

Source: CNN
Photo: Lee-Reid Family Travels

As the UN marks another annual World Water Day, all eyes were focused on Shanghai as the number of dead pigs dragged from rivers that supply the city with water was upped to nearly 16,000 within the last two weeks. Although Chinese officials claim that the incident is not related to water toxicity, the international community has become increasingly concerned as new reports claim that water contamination is the leading cause of illness in the country.

Last week, UNICEF released an alarming study that claims 90 percent of child deaths throughout China were related to bad hygiene and sanitation, and diarrheal disease through polluted water sources. An additional study done by Greenpeace East Asia corroborates these figures and also states that nearly 25 percent of the population has no source of safe drinking water, and an additional 190 million people who are forced to drink from contaminated sources.

Adding to concern is the annual water outlook study by OECD that states demand for water will rise by 55 percent within the next 37 years, while depletion of groundwater sources continues to occur, which the study says will become a major issue for certain regions within the next 10 to 20 years.

Although water access and contamination is slated to reach crisis levels throughout much of the developing world within the next few decades, governments have done relatively little to tackle this issue, with more focusing heavily on energy development and putting water sanitation to the side.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Guardian