Re: WHO suppressed evidence on effects of depleted uranium, expert says
Poor reproductive and birth outcomes in Iraq, since the U.S. invasion, have received much global attention (1, 2). A joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) began in May-June 2012 to look at the prevalence of congenital birth defects in several governorates of Iraq (3) and was scheduled to be released in November 2012 (4).
In March 2013, a BBC documentary, ("Born under a bad sign”), offered a glimpse at the results of the WHO report. A MoH official told the BBC that "All studies done by the Ministry of Health prove with damning evidence that there has been a rise in birth defects and cancers". Other MoH researchers confirmed that the situation with birth defects constitute a "big crisis" for the "next generation" of Iraqi children (5).
In May and July 2013, researchers petitioned the WHO and MoH to release their report (6, 7). In response, the WHO indefinitely postponed the release of that report.
This turn of events has bewildered many, especially in light of the WHO’s past failure to report similar data adequately. In November 2006 the British Medical Journal published an article entitled "WHO suppressed evidence on effects of depleted uranium (DU), expert says". (8).
Furthermore, recent revelations by Hans von Sponeck, the former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, suggest that WHO may be susceptible to pressure from its member states. Mr. von Sponeck said that "The US government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where DU had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers" (9).
Serious study design flaws, principally the WHO’s avoidance of any inquiry into causation of Iraqi birth defects, is also alarming (10). Nevertheless, saving Iraqi children’s lives requires the immediate release of this indefinitely postponed WHO report.
1- Al-Sabbak M, Sadik Ali S, Savabi O, Savabi G, Dastgiri S, Savabieasfahani M. 2012, Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 89(5): 937–944.
2-Human Rights Now, 2013, “Innocent New Lives are Still Dying and Suffering Report of a Fact Finding Mission on congenital birth defects in Fallujah, Iraq in 2013” http://www.brussellstribunal.org/article_view.asp?id=1016#.UggHoJIsltk
3- World Health Organization, Congenital birth defect study in Iraq: frequently asked questions: http://www.emro.who.int/irq/iraq-infocus/faq-congenital-birth-defect-stu...
4- Morrison, S. (2012, October 14). Iraq records huge rise in birth defects. The Independent U.K.
5-BBC News “Our World”, Born Under a Bad Sign. Duration 30 minutes. Produced by Yalda Hakim and Melanie Marshall. Aired on Sunday 24 Mar, 2013. Web address:
6- A Call to Release the WHO Report on Iraqi Birth Defects. Saturday 18 May, 2013. Multiple authors. Web address:
7- To the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Health: (New signatures added). Tuesday 30 July, 2013. Multiple authors. Web address:
8- BMJ 2006; 333:990.2 “WHO suppressed evidence on effects of depleted uranium, expert says.”
9- Pilger, J. (2013, May 26). We've moved on from the Iraq war – but Iraqis don't have that choice. The Guardian U.K.
10- Chowdhury, S. (2013, Jul 17) WHO’s Iraq Birth Defect Study Omits Causation. Inter Press Service News Agency.
Competing interests: No competing interests