Living near an active U.S. military base in Iraq is associated with significantly higher hair thorium and increased likelihood of congenital anomalies in infants and children
Our study has established the presence of uranium and of thorium, a direct depleted-uranium decay-product, in Nasiriyah children.
We also report on an association between residential proximity to a US army base,Tallil Air Base, and the risk of congenital anomaly.
We show that such proximity is associated with higher levels of uranium and thorium in the biological samples of the study participants.
At the same time, we found an increased risk of congenital anomalies associated with higher hair levels of these metals.
In Iraq, war contamination is the result of dispensed bombs, bullets, detonation of chemical and conventional weapons, and burn-pit emissions by US bases. Increases in congenital anomalies were reported from Iraqi cities post-2003. These cities were heavily bombed and encircled by US bases with burn-pits. Thorium is a radioactive compound and a direct depleted-uranium decay-product. Radioactive materials, including depleted uranium, are routinely stored in US bases and they have been shown to leak into the environment. We conducted a case-control study to investigate associations of residential proximity to Tallil Air Base, a US military base near Nasiriyah, as well as levels of uranium and thorium in hair and deciduous teeth with congenital anomalies.
The study was based on a sample of 19 cases and 10 controls who were recruited during late Summer and early Fall of 2016. We developed mixed effects logistic regression models with village as the random effect, congenital anomaly as the outcome and distance to the US base and hair metal levels (one at a time) as the predictor variable, controlling for child's age, sex and paternal education.
We also explored the mediation of the association between proximity to the base and congenital anomalies by hair metal levels.
We found an inverse association between distance to Tallil Air Base and risk of congenital anomalies and hair levels of thorium and uranium. The results of our mediation analyses were less conclusive. Larger studies are necessary to understand the scope of war contamination and its impact on congenital anomalies in Iraq.