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Baby Teeth of Iraqi Children Tell Troubling Tale of War’s Toxic Impacts via Common Dreams

In an effort to learn more about the impacts of long-term exposure to heavy metals and other toxins associated with warzone bombardments and military installations, a new study released Friday examined a sample of donated teeth and discovered that the children of Iraq are suffering from alarming levels of such substances, specfically lead.

The study—entitled Prenatal Metal Exposure in the Middle East: Imprint of War in Deciduous Teeth of Children—focused on Iraq, invaded by the U.S. and coalition forces over thirteen years ago, due to the amount of bombing its population has witnessed over the last thirteen years and the troubling level of cancers and birth defects now evidenced in the population that could be related to that relentless violence. The Iraqi teeth were compared to donated samples from both Lebanon, which has seen a more moderate level of bombing and warfare during the same time period, and Iran, which has experienced relative peace since the end of the Iraq/Iran War in 1988.

“In war zones,” the abstract of the study explains, “the explosion of bombs, bullets, and other ammunition releases multiple neurotoxicants into the environment. The Middle East is currently the site of heavy environmental disruption by massive bombardments. A very large number of US military bases, which release highly toxic environmental contaminants, have also been erected since 2003. Current knowledge supports the hypothesis that war-created pollution is a major cause of rising birth defects and cancers in Iraq.”

Scientifically known as a person’s “deciduous teeth,” what are also called “baby teeth” are useful to study, the researchers explain, because they “originate in fetal life and may prove useful in measuring prenatal metal exposures.” The researchers say their findings confirm the hypothesis that in war-torn Iraq the levels of contaminants found were much higher than in those countries that have seen markedly less violence.

“Our hypothesis that increased war activity coincides with increased metal levels in deciduous teeth is confirmed by this research,” reads the study. “Lead levels were similar in Lebanese and Iranian deciduous teeth. Deciduous teeth from Iraqi children with birth defects had remarkably higher levels of Pb [lead]. 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.”

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