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STOKING FIRE: In Iraq, High Rates of Cancer and Birth Defects Linked to Use of Chemical Weapons in War

11:54 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Eleanor J. Bader for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Women walking in Fallujah

Women in Fallujah (Photo: James Gordon / Flickr)

It’s said that wars never end for those whose lives they touch, and it’s true. Take Iraq — a place that surely proves the maxim that war is not healthy for children or other living things.

To wit: Despite the fact that the U.S. war with Iraq came to a close on December 18, 2011, families in numerous Iraqi cities are now living with a dramatic rise in birth defects and cancer from chemical weapons that were detonated near homes, schools, and playgrounds during the nearly seven-year conflict.

The cities of Babil, Basra, Falluja, Haweeja, and Najaf are cases in point. Let’s start with Haweeja, which is 30 miles south of Kirkuk and was home to Forward Operating Base (FOB) McHenry throughout the war. Yifat Susskind is executive director of MADRE, a New York-based international women’s human rights organization. Susskind says that Haweeja’s skyrocketing health problems came to the group’s attention when members of Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) — MADRE’s partner organization in that country — began going house to house to talk about the need to establish a shelter for rape survivors.

“When they arrived, they noticed that almost every family they visited had a child under the age of 10 with stunted or paralyzed limbs, or who had been born without fingers or toes,” Susskind says. “And they found teens who had been toddlers at the time of the U.S. invasion and were now sick with cancer. The OWFI activists were shocked and wanted to know what was going on, why this was happening.”

What they uncovered points directly to U.S. culpability. Peace Alliance Winnipeg, for one, reports that beginning in 2004, the United States “tested all types of explosive devices on Iraqis — thermobaric weapons, white phosphorus, depleted uranium.”

The upshot, discussed in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, has been a monumental increase in cancer, leukemia, malignant brain tumors, and infant mortality. In Falluja alone, The Journal concludes that the rate of life-threatening illnesses and birth defects is “significantly greater than those reported for survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.”

Yes, you read that correctly — greater than the damage of an atomic bomb, a fact corroborated by a 2009 article in The Guardian newspaper. The article described a 38-fold increase in the number of cases of leukemia and a 15-fold increase in the number of newborns born with deformities during the first five years of the war, including limb malformations, neural tube defects, heart and vision anomalies, and a baby born with two heads.

Not surprisingly, the miscarriage rate  throughout the country has mushroomed, and tumor clusters have been recognized in Basra and Najaf, intense battle zones where so-called modern munitions were heavily used.

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STOKING FIRE: OTC Weed-Killing Toxin Causes Birth Defects, Poses Wide Range of Other Health Hazards

12:01 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Eleanor J. Bader for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A syngenta sign by a field of brocolli

Photo: Eurofruit, Asiafruit & Americafruit / Flickr

Back in May, Syngenta, one of the world’s largest pesticide manufacturers — a company with offices in 90 countries and a workforce of 26,000 people — settled an eight-year-old class action lawsuit for $105 million. The agreement provides funding to more than 30 districts in the Midwestern United States to clean up water supplies that had been contaminated by Atrazine, a pesticide that was banned by the European Union in 2004 and that the National Institutes of Health have linked to adult illnesses and disabilities in newborn babies who were exposed to it in utero.

According to the NIH, research indicates that the number of babies born with birth defects in places where Atrazine is sprayed — defects that include spina bifida, Down syndrome, respiratory anomalies, and esophageal, and gastrointestinal abnormalities–is consistently higher in the months following its use.

“Atrazine is applied and spread on crops in the spring,” Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council explains.

“It then goes into the ground water. The amount spikes during application season so that there are weeks, or even months, when people are exposed to drinking water containing more than three parts per billion — the threshold for safety that has been determined by the Environmental Protection Agency–of this known endocrine disruptor. That’s why when a woman conceives during Atrazine application season, she is more likely to have a baby with health issues.”

And the danger of Atrazine extends beyond physical imperfections in newborns. The Centers for Disease Control found that “chronic high dose toxicity observed in animals demonstrated decreased body weight, myocardial muscle degeneration, liver toxicity, developmental ossification defects, impaired fertility, altered estrus cycles, delayed onset of puberty, and reduced levels of luteinizing hormones, prolactin, and testosterone.” In addition, scientists noticed that humans exposed to high levels of Atrazine had an elevated risk of miscarriage, breast, and prostate cancers.

“The settlement money will help clean up and prevent future contamination,” says Paul Towers, the Organizing and Media Director of the Pesticide Action Network of North America ”But it does not have any public health implications for the hazards of Atrazine. On the positive side, there is money for cleaning the water Midwesterners drink. The problem is that Syngenta has lobbied hard to keep selling Atrazine; it’s their flagship product.”

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STOKING FIRE: Mountaintop Coal Mining Leads to Birth Defects, Respiratory Illness and Other Health Problems

9:11 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Eleanor J. Bader for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Photobucket

When Madison Minton was six months old, her parents noticed that her breathing was frequently labored. Now in second grade, the child is on eight medications for asthma and other pulmonary ailments.

“œMadison’™s situation is typical,” says Deborah Payne, Energy and Health Coordinator of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation. “œPeople in Eastern Kentucky often don’™t have the financial capacity to move away so they live with the consequences of being downwind of a coal processing plant. This means that Madison is exposed to high quantities of dust every single day.”

Payne calls coal mining “œone piece of the birth defect puzzle” and says that at every stage, coal is problematic, from its extraction, to its processing, transport, and eventual burning. “œAt each step there are negative health consequences for adults, children, and fetal life,” she continues.

And it’™s gotten worse. As mountaintop removal [MTR] has horned-in on underground mining, the health maladies of residents of eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, eastern Tennessee, and southwest West Virginia — ”Appalachia — ”have begun to pile up.

Here’™s why. Read the rest of this entry →