War Not Over: US Occupation Is Still Poisoning Iraq's Children

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After years and countless lives lost, the US government is refusing to fully acknowledge the health crisis its burn pits in Iraq have unleashed upon the US service members exposed to airborne contaminants, even after the VA was ordered by Congress last year to establish a registry for those who have suffered ill health as a result. But when it comes to the long-term hazards of burn pits, bombings, bullets and chemical weapons upon the people of Iraq, whose exposure is exponentially greater and continues to the present day, such recognition is virtually non-existent.

In fact, if it were not for the crusading work of environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, key information about the environmental legacy of the US occupation of Iraq would be completely lost to US scholarship. Earlier this month, Savabiesfahani released a troubling new study, which unearths further evidence that air pollution directly tied to war is poisoning the most vulnerable members of Iraqi society: children.

Published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, the investigation evaluated “elemental bio-imaging of trace elements in deciduous teeth of children with birth defects from Iraq,” the report states. These teeth were then compared with “healthy and naturally shed teeth from Lebanon and Iran.” According to Savabiesfahani’s published findings, “Lead (Pb) was highest in teeth from children with birth defects who donated their teeth from Basra.” In fact, she writes, “Two Iraqi teeth had four times more Pb, and one tooth had as much as 50 times more Pb than samples from Lebanon and Iran.”

“What we saw in these baby teeth is that children had very high levels of lead,” Savabiesfahani, who won the 2015 Rachel Carson prize for her work on the environmental legacy of war in the Middle East, explained to AlterNet. “If children have this much lead in their teeth there is probably a whole lot of lead in their bones.”

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