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How the World Health Organisation covered up Iraq’s nuclear nightmare via The Guardian 

Ex-UN, WHO officials reveal political interference to suppress scientific evidence of postwar environmental health catastrophe

Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a long awaited document summarising the findings of an in-depth investigation into the prevalence of congenital birth defects (CBD) in Iraq, which many experts believe is linked to the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by Allied forces. According to the ‘summary report':

“The rates for spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital birth defects found in the study are consistent with or even lower than international estimates. The study provides no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq.”

Jaffar Hussain, WHO’s Head of Mission in Iraq, said that the report is based on survey techniques that are “renowned worldwide” and that the study was peer reviewed “extensively” by international experts.

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Politicised science

Dr. Keith Bavistock of the Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland, is a retired 13-year WHO expert on radiation and health. He told me that the new ‘summary document’ was at best “disappointing.” He condemned the decision from “the very outset to preclude the possibility of looking at the extent to which the increase of birth defects is linked to the use of depleted uranium”, and further slammed the document’s lack of scientific credibility.

[...]

Baverstock was on the editorial board for a WHO research project clearing the US and UK of responsibility for environmental health hazards involved in DU deployment. His detailed editorial recommendations accounting for new research proving uranium’s nature as as a genotoxin (capable of changing DNA) were ignored and overruled:

“My editorial changes were suppressed, even though some of the research was from Department of Defense studies looking at subjects who had ingested DU from friendly fire, clearly proving that DU was genutoxic.”

Baverstock then co-authored his own scientific paper on the subject arguing for plausibility of the link between DU and high rates of birth defects in Iraq, but said that WHO blocked publication of the study “because they didn’t like its conclusions.”

[...]

Environmental contamination from the Iraq War

Other independent experts have also weighed in criticising the WHO study. The British medical journal, The Lancet, reports that despite the study’s claims, a “scientific standard of peer review… may not have been fully achieved.”

One scientist named as a peer-reviewer for the project, Simon Cousens, professor of epidemiology and statistics at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), told The Lancet that he “attended a relatively brief meeting of around one and a half hours, so just gave some comments on an early presentation of the results. I wouldn’t classify that as thorough peer review.”

Just how distant the new WHO-sponsored study is from the last decade’s scientific literature is clear from a new report released earlier this year by a Tokyo-based NGO, Human Rights Now (HRN), which conducted a review of the existing literature as well as a fact-finding mission to Fallujah.

The HRN report investigated recorded birth defects at a major hospital in Fallujah for the year 2012, confirmed first hand birth defect incidences over a one-month period in 2013, and interviewed doctors and parents of children born with birth defects. The report concluded there was:

“… an extraordinary situation of congenital birth defects in both nature and quantity. The investigation demonstrated a significant rise of these health consequences in the period following the war… An overview of scientific literature relating to the effects of uranium and heavy metals associated with munitions used in the 2003 Iraq War and occupation, together with potential exposure pathways, strongly suggest that environmental contamination resulting from combat during the Iraq War may be playing a significant role in the observed rate of birth defects.”

The report criticised both the UN and the WHO for approaches that are “insufficient to meet the needs of the issues within their mandate.”

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