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Basrah Epidemiology Study team meets in Turkey

Members of ICBUW and IPPNW-Germany have met with experts from the Basrah Cancer Research Group (BCRG) in Istanbul, Turkey for an update on the activities of an epidemiological study project in Basrah and to discuss future research plans, which will be funded partly by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
21 July 2009 - ICBUW

Three experts from the BCRG attended the meeting held in Istanbul on July 13th and 14th, together with members of IPPNW-Germany and two German epidemiologists who have given scientific support to members of the Iraqi group.

The Iraqi experts presented reports on the progress in their work in Basrah: Prof. Omran reported on the outcome of the cancer registration project over the past four years. They have established a reliable cancer registry which can be used for further epidemiological research.

The most recent data shows that breast cancer, urinary bladder cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer and leukemia are the leading cancers in Basrah; their incidence has increased over the past ten years.

Dr. Al-Ali gave a report about the result of a household survey which was conducted last year as a back-up to the cancer registry. They surveyed 9,051 persons in 1,431 households. The results were compatible with the data of the cancer registry and confirmed its validity.

Mr. Vartanian reported on the results of the measurement of DU contamination around the wreckage of tanks hit by DU shells. The contamination still exists even in the midst of highly populated areas in Basrah. The first attempt to remove contaminated scrap metal from dumps within the city began just 10 days before the meeting.

Members of the project team.
Rear, left to right: Prof. Omran, Prof. Greiser, Mr. Vartanian & Prof. Hoffmann. Front, left to right: Dr. Al-Ali, Dr. Furitsu, Dr. Claussen, Ms. Munroe & Mr. Weir

The progress of the epidemiological study was achieved through great effort on the part of the Basrah experts, who have worked under difficult circumstances following three wars. The progress that has been made was also due to international support from NGOs including IPPNW-Germany, ICBUW and its members in Finland and from various groups in Germany and the US, in addition to scientific support from the German epidemiologists. The epidemiological study will provide basic data to prevent and control cancer in Basrah. Supporting this study is one of the tangible ways of extending assistance to people living in areas affected by uranium weapons.

The Iraqi experts are currently beginning the process of looking at the risk factors that may be behind the increase in cancer in Basrah, including DU contamination, based on reliable data from the cancer registry. The extent of post-conflict damage in Basrah and the variety of environmental and social risk factors influencing its inhabitants will present considerable challenges to the future survey.

After a wide-ranging discussion on a number of technical issues, the meeting participants agreed to draft a plan for a Pilot Study to examine the feasibility of a future full-scale case-control study examining the influence of a variety of risk factors, including DU, on childhood leukemia and malignant lymphoma in Basrah. Nevertheless, a full study will take several years before it can arrive at any scientific conclusions.

For campaigners keen to promote a link between DU exposure and cancer, this means that it will be more important than ever to advocate for an international moratorium and ban under the Precautionary Principle. Complex epidemiology takes time, yet there is abundant data from cellular and animal experiments to show that exposure to DU has the potential to cause a variety of health problems.

The meeting was coordinated and chaired by the ICBUW Science Team and the ICBUW International Office with logistical support from the Green Party of Turkey and IPPNW-Germany. ICBUW is grateful for the assistance of Dr. Claussen, the chair of IPPNW-Germany, and the staff of the Green Party of Turkey. ICBUW is also grateful to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its financial support for the meeting.


From Iraq:
Prof. Omran Suker Habib
, Epidemiologist, Dept. of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Basrah, Member of Iraqi Cancer Council and member of the BCRG.
Dr. Jawad Kadhim Hassan Al-Ali, Oncologist, Head of the BCRG, member of Iraqi Cancer Council.
Dr. Khajak Vartanian, Physicist, Directorate of Environment Protection, Basrah and member of the BCRG.

From Germany:
Prof. Eberhard Greiser
*: Epidemiologist, retired professor of Bremen University, Epi.Consult GmbH, Bremen, Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine .
Prof. Wolfgang Hoffmann*: Epidemiologist, Director of Section Epidemiology of Health Care and Community Health, Institute of Community Health, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald.
Dr. Angelika Clausen, Medical Doctor, Chair of IPPNW-Germany

Ms. Gretel Munroe
, Nutritionist, ICBUW Science Team (US)
Dr. Katsumi Furitsu, Medical Doctor, ICBUW Science Team (Japan)
Mr. Doug Weir, Coordinator of the ICBUW International Office (UK)

* Prof. Hoffmann and Prof. Greiser, both German experts have considerable experience in studies linking clusters of childhood leukaemia to nuclear power plants.

Media coverage Press coverage

The meeting was followed by a well-attended press conference for Turkish and international media and local NGOs. In it, the Iraqi research team described the changing patterns of cancer in Basrah and detailed the extent of contamination in the city following the 1991 and 2003 conflicts.

ICBUW Coordinator Doug Weir then discussed the international campaign and Turkey's stockpiling of uranium weapons. Media and activists alike were interested to hear that Turkey has more than 22,000 105mm US-made DU tank rounds and an undisclosed number of ADAM mines. Doug also discussed DU with Kurdish TV and live on Istanbul's Açık Radyo.

A meeting was also held with Turkey's anti-war coalition to discuss future cooperation for the campaign.


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