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Support the Basra Epidemiological Study

ICBUW has called for financial support to assist an epidemiological research project in Basra, southern Iraq, where large volumes of DU weapons were used during the wars in 1991 and 2003. This research project, the first of it’s kind in the world, has been carried out on the initiative of the Iraqi doctors themselves, for the health and welfare of the Iraqi people. It aims to assess for the first time the extent to which DU pollution in Basra is damaging civilians' health.
29 September 2006 - ICBUW

Project background

Doctors from Basra have been reporting a rapid rise in the number of cases of cancers and birth defects since the mid-1990s. They strongly suspect that the environmental damage from pollutants - including DU contamination - released during conflicts may be responsible.

However, because of a lack of responsibility from coalition forces and the political instability inside Iraq, almost nothing has been done to assess the scale of the problem.

There are many scientific reports and papers based on animal and cellular studies, which have clearly shown that DU can act as a carcinogen; still more papers highlight its ability to damage the reproductive system and foetus, through both radiological action and its chemical toxicity.

However, until now there have been no large-scale epidemiological and environmental surveys into DU exposure and health damage in populations living in contaminated areas. This has ensured that the causal relationship between health problems and DU exposure has not always been clear.

Responding to a call from Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, Head of the Department of Medicine at Al-Sadr Teaching Hospital, and Director of its Cancer Treatment Centre, for support in undertaking the Basra Epidemiological Study (BES), IPPNW-Germany organised a 'summer school' in Jordan in 2005.

In Jordan, Iraqi health professionals met with European epidemiologists and other specialists and discussed planning for the project. In February 2006, a second meeting took place in Germany. Although still in the planning stages, they have found that the main priority in Basra is to establish a reliable cancer registry, which can then act as a solid database for a subsequent epidemiological and environmental health analysis.

Iraqi cancer specialist Dr Al-Ali discusses the Basra Epidemiology Survey

Current activities and results so far

They have made great steps towards setting it up during the last year. Following the Amman Summer School, doctors and researchers from Basra established a project team to improve patient care, case detection and registration. They will now map cases and identify possible risk factors and possible environmental pollutants; with a particular focus on DU.

They are currently summarising and tidying the raw data on cancer and haematological malignancies (mainly leukaemia) from their main three sources in the city. These are: the Al-Sadr Teaching Hospital, the Cancer Registration Section at the Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine at the College of Medicine and the Pediatrics' Oncology Ward in Basra Maternity and Child Hospital. They are also assessing other sources.

Dr. Jawad Al-Ali presented their latest epidemiological data at the 3rd ICBUW International Conference this August in Hiroshima, which showed a 1.4 times increase in the solid cancer incidence rate during the past eight years, an increase in the incidence rate from 44.7 to 61.5 per 100,000. So far it seems that breast cancer, lymphomas and some other cancers have clearly been increasing. There are also some kinds of cancers, such as liver cancer, which have decreased or have remained stable during the past eight years. (A formal paper on their work so far will be submitted to a journal later this year.)

Dr. Al-Ali suggested that this increase could be attributed to the serious environmental destruction, of which DU pollution is a part, caused by conflicts in the region since 1991. He described the incredibly difficult conditions under which Iraqi physicians work because of a lack of basic equipment and medicines and called for international support in helping them treat patients and undertake independent and environmental and epidemiological research.

How your donations will be spent

At the moment, funding is urgently needed for

- Computers, peripherals and software for analysis of the raw data.

- Training and educating medical personnel.

- Collection and registration of data on cancer cases.

- Developing the second stage of the project that will initiate case control studies on breast cancer and leukaemia.


We are currently accepting donations by direct bank transfer and Paypal, click on the image above to donate. Alternatively you can pay by cheque. Please make cheques payable to ICBUW and attach a covering note with ‘BES’ on it.

International (non UK)
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Bank identification code: CPBK GB22

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Account number: 6522 0469

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Further information

ICBUW - International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons
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