Muslim Peacemaker Teams Members Study Effects of Depleted Uranium

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008″

(Feb. 11, 2008) — Church of the Brethren member Cliff Kindy wrote the following report of a recent study of the effects of the use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq by members of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams. Kindy works with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq, and also has been involved in a campaign against the manufacture of depleted uranium weaponry in the United States.

In July 2007 the Church of the Brethren General Board issued a resolution against the use of depleted uranium weapons in partnership with CPT and the World Council of Churches, both of which have been working against such weapons. CPT was originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker), and now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations.

Following is Kindy’s report:

“Najim Askouri, a nuclear physicist, and Assad Al-Janabi, a pathologist, are members of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) in Najaf, Iraq. On Dec. 6, 2007, they reported on their study of depleted uranium (DU) at a gathering in Suleimaniya. That study documented the health impact of depleted uranium weapons used during the Gulf wars.

“The focus of their study was Najaf, population one million, and surrounding rural areas, about 180 miles from depleted uranium use in the first Gulf War.

“In 2004, during a period of collapsed health care infrastructure, there were 251 reported cases of cancer. By 2006, with data more accurately reflecting reality, that figure rose to 688. Already in 2007, 801 cancer cases have been reported. These figures show an incidence rate of 28.21 by 2006, contrasting with the normal rate of 8-12 cases of cancer per 100,000 people.

“Askouri and Al-Janabi made two striking observations. First, cancers related to radiation exposure have dramatically increased, especially the rare soft tissue sarcoma and leukemia. Second, the age at which cancer begins is dropping rapidly, with incidents of colon cancer at eight, and liposarcoma at 18 months. Al-Janabi noted that 24 percent of the cancers reported occurred in the 11 to 30 age range.

“Researchers gave special attention to three locations in Najaf. Al-Anzar is a street 50 meters long. Here they found 13 cancer cases among unrelated individuals of different ages and genders without a family history of cancer. Another location, Al-Fathi, is a one-kilometer rural stretch along a river where they found 37 varied cancer cases. The third area was Al-Muslameen, a well-to-do sector of the city, with 20 documented cases.

“Askouri began his report by noting the US military used 350 tons of depleted uranium in 1991, and 150 during the 2003 bombing. When depleted uranium hits a target, it aerosolizes and forms oxides. The first oxide is water-soluble and enters the aquifers and food chain. The second is insoluble and settles as dust carried on the winds.

“Aerosolized dust enters the lungs and causes problems as it crosses cell walls and affects the genetic system. Askouri reported his grandson was born with heart problems, Downs Syndrome, an underdeveloped liver, and leukemia, which he assumes were caused by the parents’ exposure to depleted uranium. He said, ‘Cancer is spreading from the conflict area as a health epidemic which will only deteriorate.’ The Najaf cancer rate has tripled in 16 years, similarly to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

“He concluded by asking, ‘Would it not be just for us to request equipment and facilities to document the problems, clean the environment, and care for those exposed to depleted uranium?’”

(For more information go to http://www.cpt.org/. This piece originally was published by CPT on Dec. 26, 2007.)

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