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Birth Defects in Iraq

By Taylor Marvin

Via @pourmecoffeeThe Independent reports a huge rise in Iraqi birth defects, caused by lead and depleted uranium rounds used during the war:

“The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10. Prior to the turn of the millennium, fewer than 2 per cent of babies were born with a defect. More than 45 per cent of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 per cent before the bombing. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage.”

This is awful, and as @pourmecoffee notes, underreported in the US media — no one likes to read about the long term damage caused by their country’s wars, especially when the harm causes is something as vicerally awful as  birth defects.

I think an interesting avenue for research would be how war affect fetal health outcomes through the maternal stress channel, rather than environmental toxicity. In a recent thesis project I looked at whether earthquakes in Chile raise the incidence of low birth weight pregnancies through maternal stress. I found a small but significant positive correlation between earthquake intensity and the incidence of low birth weight pregnancies in the third trimester, as well as increased diagnosis of mental health issue in women who experience earthquakes during their first trimester. It is reasonable to suspect a similar relationship for war-related stress, and a quick literature search turns up few previous studies.

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