What Is Happening To Babies In Fallujah, Iraq?

A baby stares at the camera surrounded by medical equipment.

Recently, an article was published in a well-known medical journal about the rate of congenital birth defects in Fallujah, Iraq.

Fallujah saw some of the most intense fighting during the Iraq War, so the long-term effects of war are important to research in this area. According to the article, “in May 2010, over 15% of all deliveries (547) in Fallujah General Hospital presented birth defects.”1 This is much higher than in the rest of the world, which usually only has around 3% of babies being born with birth defects.2 The most common types of abnormalities in Fallujah were congenital heart defects (CHD).

The report describes four families living in Fallujah, and each of these families had at least one child with birth defects. Several questions were asked to the parents to identify possible exposure to toxic chemicals in the air they breathe, the dirt they walk on, the water they drink, or food they eat. This may include being close to chemical weapons and bombings, smoking and drinking habits of the parents, and a history of where they lived before, during, and after the war.

The results suggest that chemicals and metals from the Iraq War may have led to birth defects in the Iraqi children born during the conflict. The contaminants did not necessarily have an immediate effect on the parents. However, continued exposure to toxins over a long period of time and a build-up of the toxins in the parent’s body could lead to birth defects in their children.

Read the article for yourself here.

This report is of absolute importance in figuring out why there is such a large backlog of Iraqi children needing heart surgery. It encourages specific possible sources leading to higher numbers of birth defects. This is incredibly important because if we find out why, then maybe we can prevent defects from occurring in babies being born in the future.

1Alaani S, Savabieasfahani M, Tafash M, Manduca P. Four polygamous families with congenital birth defects from Fallujah, Iraq. Int J Environ Res Publ Health 2011; 8:89-96
2 Update on overall prevalence of major birth defects—Atlanta, Georgia, 1978-2005.MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2008;57:1-5.