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Posted on Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

Ann Arbor toxicologist: Study shows high rate of Fallujah birth defects, raises questions about whether U.S. war in Iraq is to blame

By Juliana Keeping


A doctor cares for children at Fallujah General Hospital. Doctors there have observed an elevated rate of birth defects. An study funded by an anti-war group and published Dec. 31 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health links the malformations to US warfare.

Photo courtesy of Mozhgan Savabieasfahani

Is the U.S. war in Iraq behind an increase of severe birth defects in Fallujah?

That's the question raised by new research co-authored by an Ann Arbor resident and published in the International Journal of Environmental Health.

“Lots of babies are dying in Fallujah,” said environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. “Those who don’t die have a grim future. Their parents aren’t able to care about them.”

The study authors theorize that military assaults in Fallujah left a toxic footprint that could be continuing to harm families there, especially pregnant mothers and their babies, some of whom are being born with severe deformities and other problems.

Savabieasfahani, author of the 2009 book “Pollution and Reproductive Damage,” joined the international research team working on the study after she saw Fallujah General Hospital doctor Samir Allani on BBC news reports about the birth defects. Allani was interviewed by the BBC about birth defects and cancer in the Iraqi city following heavy U.S. assaults in 2004 aimed at stamping out out an insurgency.

The latest study, funded by The Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War, focuses on birth defects observed at the hospital since 2003. International media outlets, including the BBC World and others, have published reports on the Ann Arbor resident’s research since the journal published the paper Dec. 31.

In May, 2010, 15 percent of 547 babies born at the hospital had severe birth defects. “This is in contrast to 2 to 4 percent that is normal in human population,” Savabieasfahani said.

During other months in 2010, babies being born with birth defects have been observed at rates as high as 30 percent, Savabieasfahani said.

Lacking comprehensive birth records for the town, study authors took detailed reproductive histories from four families to create a snapshot of births in Fallujah before and after 2004 U.S. assaults.

Of the four families surveyed, none had reported deformities or childhood cancers before 2003, with the exception of one case of childhood leukemia.


A new report says children are being born in Fallujah with severe deformities following U.S. assaults on the Iraqi city.

Photo courtesy of Mozhgan Savabieasfahani

The defects the study found range in type and severity, and the pictures of the children are hard to look at, she said. One male child born on Aug. 7, 2010, had a very short webbed neck, rocker bottom feet, malformed thighs, deformities of the hips, knees and ankles and retracted penile skin, the report states.

Babies showed a higher-than-average number of both congenital heart defects and neural tube defects like spina bifida, a serious birth defect that occurs when the neural tube — the part of the embryonic structure that will become the baby’s brain —doesn’t close properly, causing a host of serious complications.

Savabieasfahani said that while the study shows a high incidence of birth defects, more research is needed into the sources of suspected environmental contaminants. She wants interested parties to contact her if they would like to help with future research.

“We have to find out what the source of it is,” she said “To find the source, we need the support of scientists, of institutions. This is a global health crisis. It’s a global health issue and it needs to be addressed.”

Howard Hu, chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said in an e-mail, that while the study seeks to show a problem with birth defects, it leaves unanswered the question of whether the environment is contributing to them.

Authors suspect metal contaminants are playing a part in the high rate of birth defects, though the environment was not studied. The researchers honed in on depleted uranium as an example of a war contaminant, but noted various war contaminants can potentially interfere with normal embryonic and fetal development. Among them are dioxins, the major contaminant of Agent Orange that had "devastating reproductive health effects" on the Vietnamese following the Vietnam War.

“As environmental effectors, metals are potential good candidates to cause birth defects,” the paper states. “Metals are also integral to modern ... weapons. Metals, which are toxicants at relatively low concentrations, are highly persistent in the environment and in the body of exposed individuals, where they accumulate.”

Juliana Keeping is a health and environment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : 6:09 a.m.

Who is Douglas Lind Rokke (Part 2) - quotes from Freedom of Information in " " with explanation. Nuclear Medicine Sciences Officer, - Rokke was designated an MOS 68B00 Nuclear Medicine Sciences Officer from his direct appointment as a Second Lieutenant in the Reserve Medical Service Corps in 1986 through his assignment to Fort McClellan, Alabama in 1994 as a MOS 72A00 Project Director and after his departure from the Fort McClellan assignment in November 1995 through his retirement in September 2003. The assignment as a Theater Health Physicist was a sub-set of the MOS 68B00 series. former Director, U.S. Army Depleted Uranium project, - While the Army MOS was 72A00, Project Director, there was no "Army Depleted Uranium project" and Captain Rokke was not the Army Depleted Uranium Project Director. Rokke actually was the liaison officer with contractor personnel who were preparing DU awareness training materials while he was at Fort McClellan. Captain Rokke also co-wrote this rather hard to find article. He no longer mentions it on any of his many videos or invited lectures (by the way, Rokke claims to be a disabled combat vet, but never served in combat - I wonder what real combat veterans, especially those disabled from wounds, feel about this false claim)- Depleted Uranium, What is it? Is it Dangerous? See Part 3 for more on Rokke's approximately 26 year career in the Active Air Force, Illinois Army National Guard and Army Reserve (not 40 as Rokke used to claim and other tidbits from Rokke's official military files)


Sun, Jan 16, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.

Freedom of Speech praises Douglas Lind Rokke, Major, US Army Reserve (retired) and PhD Vocational Education with the 1992 thesis of "Perceived physics concepts needed to teach secondary technology education as general education". Lets see who the real Douglas Lind Rokke is, not the role that he plays on the numerous YouTube videos that Freedom wants you to watch. Rokke is not a scientist or an expert on depleted uranium. He just is very good at convincing people who do not know any better that he is. I was not convinced and I got his records using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and I will share them with you. Freedom begins with - Dr. Doug Rokke (remember, it is Vocational Education, the teaching of high school students who intend to go into careers that do not require a college degree the average PhD in Vocational Education would not use the Doctor title in anything other than an educational setting, but Rokke uses it to impress and mislead), US Army Health Physicist (First Lieutenant Rokke was designated a Theater Health Physicist from late March through mid-June 1991 so that the real health physicists could go home. Rokke has a BS in Physics from Western Illinois University and had taught enlisted NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical (warfare)) courses before being commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1986. Both Rokke's Masters "The necessity and educational acquisition of selected vocational skills by Food Science graduates" and doctoral degrees are in Vocational Education. If Rokke were a real Health Physicist, he would not have had to rely upon being a substitute high school science teacher and travelling around the world railing against depleted uranium for his income. (continued below) - Next - Nuclear Medical Science Officer


Fri, Jan 14, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

on one matter only am i glad this silliness was published: an excellent new relationship has been established. can we go home now......??


Fri, Jan 14, 2011 : 9:45 a.m.

Rural Mom, Actually, Chemical Ali's poison gasses were used against the Kurds and his chemical troops just had to encircle Shiite villages to make them be afraid. Fallujah was a Baathist and Sunni stronghold, so, no there were no gas attacks on Fallujah. A friend of mine also hypothesized that the yellow cake that was flown out of Iraq might have been responsible because after the fall of Saddam, the bright yellow drums were emptied of the brownish yellow mud inside and converted to water barrels, but that was at Tukwaitha and that is not near to Fallujah. As a result, if there is some sort of spike in birth defects or cancers, and given the lack of medical records and poor state of medical health facilities and services, that would be very hard to prove, it is not likely to be due to any radioactive substance. Did you know that the Ann Arbor author posted about 3-headed babies in Fallujah in March on this very board? I found it researching her name this evening. That is more proof that the so-called scientific study started with a pre-conceived conclusion and facts were probably manufactured to fit.


Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

invisible empire...the "barnes review', mentioned in connection with the Rokke you ( and mozhgan) adulate is a leading "holocaust denial' vehicle... case closed (and no surprises to those of us on the thread who have disputed this "study".)


Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 11:20 a.m.

Way ti ignore the record of facts people. Again: Dr. Doug Rokke, US Army Health Physicist and Nuclear Medicine Sciences Officer, PhD., former Director, U.S. Army Depleted Uranium project, who led those teams and wrote the guidelines has the credentials to speak to this: Watch and listen to what the man in charge says: He makes all the misguided patriotism moot. He is a patriot and is concerned not only for the THOUSANDS of US TROOPS exposed but the 1000s of others too... Hello. As for not being used in Fallujah... Listen to the expert that wrote the guidelines IN PLACE for a long time that the brass say didn't or don't exist or are not clear... 2 + 2 = This stuff goes airborne the second it comes out of the barrel... It doesn't go away... ever. It's carried in dust, dirt, water and on anything it comes into contact with. But hey you fortunate senator's sons (& daughters can wave your flag and ignore the fact that it's the very people you claim to support that are being wiped out by it... something about "when they play hail to the chief..." comes to mind.


Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 10:18 a.m.

While this "study" is clearly propaganda I'll use the opportunity to mention that heavy metals testing is woefully underutilized in this country. One inexpensive urine test can screen for lead, mercury, arsenic, uranium and a host of other toxins. It should be standard procedure for autistics, ADHD, people with mercury amalgam fillings, and before declaring symptoms to be psychosomatic. Few doctors know to try this. DU weaponry is only used against tanks. Otherwise, cheaper and more abundant high explosive shells are used if not missiles and bombs. I doubt that anyone's bothered to load DU shells since the early days of the war, long before the battle of Fallujah.

average joe

Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 7:59 a.m.

The story states that the study was based on four families. That's not much effort toward extensive research by the "study authors". If the town has records of how high the birth defect rate was in one month (may) out of 547 births, then is 4 families a good representative "sample"? It looks like they do keep records, & probably have an archive somewhere that one could access, if, of course some one WANTS to know the history of birth defects in this country. The story also states that the "authors suspect/theorize" about what they believe is the reason for these birth defects. Just another case of 'let's fit the culprit(the U.S.) to the crime'. Just look who funded the study. If the study showed that the war wasn't in any way responsible, the group would not have allowed release of this non-evidence, and yet there would still be birth defects. This story is nothing more than a solicitation for funding to further their "theory". Ms. Keeping- You show by your headline that you are not an inpartial reporter- "...U.S. war... is to blame?" Not something that should be in the headline. Be careful, you could be blamed for a tragic incident like what happened in Tuscon.


Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 6:46 a.m. your apt observation about the possible genetic side effects of middle east close kin marriage :in many such societies paternal 1st cousins are favored, although statistically that varies alot. However in One seacoast pakistani village with which i am intimately acquainted such patterns reached nearly 80%, with readily observable physical consequences ( and possibly non observable ones too.) But these were not necessarily deleterious. On the propaganda pseudo-science front,of which the author cited in this article is a card carrying member, a recent saudi claim that Israelis were using "spy vultures" turned out to be a simple case of migratory birds banded by Haifa university ornithologists, while a similar case of jewish 'killer sharks' attacking tourists in Egypt was similar 'red herring' ( or shark). A worthy group to follow, re these journalistic/fake science whoppers in middle east reportage is "HONEST REPORTING". Ann should absolutely have done more homework before posting this nonsense. And they should know this by now! and i will be in touch, per your request.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

Tommy T, Suggest that you read the following IAEA report about Kuwait - Radiological Conditions in Areas of Kuwait With Residues of Depleted Uranium Includes Appendix III - Experiments to Examine Resuspension The World Health Organization has an extensive resource page on depleted uranium; in its advice to medical professionals, "WHO Guidance on Exposure to Depleted Uranium For Medical Officers and Programme Administrators" it says "Even if present in areas in which large amounts of DU munitions were used, the possibility that significant quantities of dust and debris could have been inhaled or ingested by civilians is remote." The WHO resource page is at Even though you, Freedom of Speech and the "researchers" jumped to the conclusion that depleted uranium has anything to do with the claimed spike in birth defects in Fallujah, that ignores the fact that DU was not used in Fallujah. Richard S Lowry spent two years researching his book New Dawn: The Battles of Fallujah. He has confirmed that no DU ever was used in those battles.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 10:34 p.m.

Demystify, Rural Mom, Bedrog, others who want to expose this pseudoscience for what it is, please, contact me. I wish that there were way to send messages to posters - that is one of the key values of having to register and log in, etc.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

The study was funded by The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission & War Crimes Tribunal (a kangaroo court)and Depleted Uranium was not used in Fallujah. Why did these researchers not verify that fact first? Why did they not examine the close intermarriage that has been common in Iraq. What happens when first cousins bear children? What about nutrition and poor medical care? What part did these crucial ignored facts play in this highly biased piece of pseudo scientific research. What does the University of Michigan have to say about having its name used for propaganda? To reply to me,


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

"Howard Hu, chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said in an e-mail, that while the study seeks to show a problem with birth defects, it leaves unanswered the question of whether the environment is contributing to them." That sentence from the story says it all. As a scientist, it tells me that no scientific evidence has been presented for the assertions, which leaves no doubt that it is political propaganda and not research. The rest of the story is superfluous.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

They should compare the study with one for Kuwait which is covered with DU ( common to tank rounds and air to ground missiles used on helicopters and A-10 Thunderbolts). The sand storms common to both areas distributed it in a fine layer most everywhere.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

The Bush presidency will never go away completely.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

p.s. just answered my own question on the funding group of this study, via the wonders of google...evidently a fairly marginal organization even in malaysia, whose recent conference featured Cynthia McKinney, a notorious american anti-semite. Thanks, me.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

rural mom is correct. There is an agenda in this "study" that bends credibility /data ( per the UM prof's demurral of the "findings") on so many levels, which i touched on a deleted post. And can we perhaps get a bit of info as to where THE KUALA LUMPUR FOUNDATION TO CRIMINALIZE WAR ( which funded this 'research') stands on various jihadist activities??? ( i know where the ann arbor researcher stands on such things!). Just askin!


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

Another In Depth Interview of Dr. Rokke:


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Depleted Uranium... Ding Ding Ding!!!! Or more commonly known as DU. It's against the law to use DU Ammo on US soil but guess what they are doing it. Where's the outrage. Texas has reported uranium, among other nasty bits in almost ALL of it's public water supply. This may be a result of the mining of Flouride in the same areas of Florida that contains levels of uranium and other things but the fact is that the US and others have blanketed the areas of conflict with DU, our brave men & women and countless others have been exposed, they are violating our law using it on US soil and the US Military team that was in charge of cleaning toxic areas up after/during GWI wrote the guidelines on it and are dying themselves because of it and the US Military claims the guideline are not in place or clear. I think Dr. Doug Rokke, US Army Health Physicist and Nuclear Medicine Sciences Officer, PhD., former Director, U.S. Army Depleted Uranium project, who led those teams and wrote the guidelines has the cedentials to speak to this: In fact RuralMom... I'd say Dr. Rokke is not only a hero of the first regard but he is paying the price and very ill as a result. "Dr. Rooke estimates that from October/November 1991 in Gulf War 1, 160,000 US soldiers were permanently disabled by US use of some 340 tons of depleted uranium. Ten years later that number had climbed to 221,000 and left 10,000 dead. Dr. Rooke, a victim himself of the lack of proper post-battle examinations for DU poisoning, spoke with a tempered but deliberate anger and frustration at the damage done to all, including civilian populations, combatants, and himself." from:


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

RuralMom, that is why they took medical histories for the years dating PRIOR to the U.S. invasion. They are saying that AFTER Sadam Hussein's fall they saw a dramatic increase in birth defects. They are talking about 2010. The methods to get medical histories for prior years can be questioned, but you should understand that they are talking about an increase in very recent years, AFTER the fall of Hussein. Are you one of the 50% who just read the headline? This isn't a report it is a study that is being conducted; the report will follow the study. Of course they cannot yet proclaim the cause for such an increase in birth defects, but they are stating there is a strong correlation between U.S. occupation and birth defects. I do remember hearing quite a bit that many basic infrastructures and utilities were out of service due to the U.S. invasion, such as there being limited or no electricity and running water in cities for quite some time. Simply the state of the nation after the fall of Hussein should be strongly considered, as well as the fact that psychological stress of the war on the mothers alone can cause birth defects. "Their parents arent able to care about them. is a strange quote...she didn't say the parents aren't able to care FOR them but I hope that is what she meant.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

Yes it must be U.S. assaults, it couldn't been the gasses used by Sadam Hussien or his cousin Chemical Ali! Does anyone think these reports through before proceeding? Or do you just settle for 50% may read the headline and believe it without questions?