Testimony on Radioactive Contamination in Iraq Print E-mail


World Tribunal of Iraq Istanbul, Turkey 25 June 2005
Fifith Session / Cultural Heritage, Environment and World Resources (Moderator: Hilal Elver)
Testimony on Radioactive Contamination in Iraq

Environmental Damages of Military Operations During the Invasion of Iraq (IIMO) (2003 – 2005)

By Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi
Assistant Professor / Environmental Eng.
Complete details, figures, maps: HERE

I. Introduction:
The Iraqi population and environment have suffered a great deal of damage due to the continuous state of wars and economical sanctions since 1980 to this day. During these destructive war operations, the USA administration and the Pentagon decided to make the Iraqi people and Iraq’s environment a Guinea Pig laboratory for DoD testing of all types of DU radioactive, thermaboric, chemical, robust earth penetrators, microwave, and other types of weapons. They also decided to distribute all the 750,000 tons of radioactive waste from their backyard to certain parts of the world- beginning from Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, the Balkans and on to the list of similar countries.

After converting this waste to deadly weapons that can be sold for billions of dollars. Part of the technique to bury evidence of the catastrophic crimes that are being committed every single minute against the people and environment in Iraq includes the destruction and looting of research centers, and the imprisonment and assassination of Iraqi scientists.

This paper is an oversimplified presentation to define some of the environmental damage resulting from the Iraq Invasion and Military Operations (IIMO) starting on the 19th of March 2003 and continuing to this very day…

Operation Iraqi Invasion : Military Operations and Weapons
Note: Iraq’s Invasion Military Operations (IIMO)

Tremendous types and generations of deadly military weapons have been used during the invasion of Iraq (March 19 – April 21) some of which are shown [1]

Table 1: Types of Weapons Used in IIMO Since March 2003 – Today

Also the following weapons have been used (References [1] to [20])

Napalm bombs

Cluster bombs (BLU-97 A/B) and (RBL 755), (CBU-105), and cluster munitions and MLRS

Chemical agents (like in Fallujah, Al-Dor, Ballad, Tikrit etc.)

DU weapons (including those in Bunker Buster Bombs and Tomahawk missiles).

Reminder: First generation of Bunker Busters (GBU-27) were also tested for the first time in Iraq on February 13 to destroy Al-Amariyah Shelter in Baghdad. It has been proven successful with 2000 lb of explosives incinerating 408 women and children sleeping the shelter.

II. Air Pollution:

Major air pollution sources as a result of IIMO are:

1- Toxic hydrocarbon (HC) soot and fumes from the burning of thousands of barrels of oil from wells or oil pits surrounding Baghdad and other cities. Smoke and soot from oil burning contains toxic and carcinogens [21] Substances like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons  or PAHs, dioxins, furans, mercury, sulfur.

Figure (2) shows these HC and soot plumes and Table 2 shows pollutants loads from burning different fuel types.

Table 2: Pollutants Loads Generated from Burning of Hydrocarbons Fuels

2- Explosions plumes from conventional weapons (Nox, Sox, Cox, etc.)

3- Thermal and heat pollution as a result of using Napalm and Thermaboric Bunker Buster bombs.

4- Noise Pollution during air raids and what was known as “Shock and Awe” where noise intensity exceeded 130 dB or close to the threshold of pain to human beings [23].

5- Increase of TSS (Total Suspended Solids) in air due to tanks and heavy artilleries traffic and deep into earth bombardment using the Bunker Buster bombs and other heavy missiles.

6- Increase the number or frequency of sand and dust storms compared to the previous years due to the destruction of soil molecular structure and the damage to vegetation cover. Table (3) shows the frequency and concentrations of total suspended particles (TSS) in selected years in Iraq.

Table 3: Frequency and Concentrations of TSS in Selected Years in Iraq [24], [25]

7- Ionized radiation (á, â, ä) as a result of using more than (1100 – 2200) tons of Depleted Uranium weaponry. [2], [9], [14], [15], [18]

8- Complex plumes of adsorbed (DU) oxides on fine suspended dust (clay particles of <5 microns) with hydrocarbonic soot and smoke.

III. Water Pollution:
Surface and groundwater in Iraq represented by Tigris and Euphrates rivers, their tributaries, storage lakes, marshes and shallow and deep ground water aquifers connected to these water courses. Heavy bombardment of understorage tanks and infrastructures caused a great deal of seepage of hazardous and toxic,

1-      Chemicals and hydrocarbons and sewage water to nearby watercourses or to groundwater then to surface water.

2-      Polluted surface runoff after each rainstorm adds dissolved air pollutants to soil or surface water.

3-      Increase of waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, malaria, and dysentery especially after the degradation of sanitary conditions due to lack of disinfection chemicals after the looting of major mechanical and electrical parts of the water purification and sewage treatment plants in Baghdad and other cities.

WHO, UNEP, Oxfam, Voices in the Wilderness groups wrote about the deterioration of sanitation and the  outbreak of some serious dangerous diseases like (leishmaniasis) which leads to disfigurement of the face and the hands. [22], [25]

IV. Soil and Land Degradation:
The continuous and heavy bombardment for one month caused tremendous damage to soil structure. Soil contamination and degradation by:

1-      Spilled chemicals and oils. About 217 attacks on oil pipes [30], and refineries resulted in the spillage of thousands of oil barrels to soil and ground and surface water.

2-      Sewage with high TDS and biological oxygen demand (BOD).

3-      Heavy artilleries and tanks and armored vehicles traffic.

4-      Bulldozing huge areas of trees and date palms by American troops as a collective punishment for resisting the occupation [24], or as a security measure to reduce the resistance attacks on occupying forces. Figures (3, 4, 5, 6) Landsat images show how more than 50% of previously vegetated areas on the way to Baghdad airport, Samarra, floodplains of the Tigris river in Baghdad and other cities have been removed and bulldozed. These are green belts preventing desertification in these areas.

As a consequence endangered Iraqi desert species like Asiatic jackal, wolf, fox, gazelle and falcons disappeared from the few areas sheltering them on the edges of urban areas.

V. Radiological Pollution Associated with the IIMO:
Since 1991 Iraq has been subjected to radiological pollution as a result of using Depleted Uranium Weapons by USA and Allies in the Gulf War I.

This contamination caused an increase in cancer incident rates and congenital malformations to six times more than prior to the war in southern Iraq where more than 320 tons of DU munitions have been fired in areas west of Al-Basrah City. Other areas in Iraq proven to be contaminated (Table 4) but with a lesser degree of contamination.

During IIMO in 2003 DU munitions were also used directly [13], [14], [15], [16], [19], [20] or indirectly through new generations of weapons with an extraordinary number of penetrating capabilities like Cruise Missiles and the Bunker Buster Bombs.

Dr. Dai Williams listed these suspected weapons in Table (5)…. [20].

During 2003 IIMO the use of depleted (or non-depleted) uranium weapons this time on heavily populated areas like Baghdad center. [9], [13], [18], [27]

To assess the impact of these radiological and toxic weapons on the population in the area we need to know the exact amount of depleted uranium used. IIMO officials wouldn’t release this information after the outrage of the international community on DU weapons health and environmental consequences on the First Gulf War Veterans and the Iraqi people.

Table (4): Measured DU Contamination Areas in Iraq During and Post First Gulf War 1991

VI. DU in Cruise Missiles:
Post the first test of AGM 154JSOW Cruise Missiles in the No-Fly Zone in 1999 [20], a comprehensive radiological detection, sampling and testing program has been conducted by the Environmental Engineering Department in Baghdad University in the following areas. [28]

Table (6): Number and Types of Sampling Programs

Figures (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) [28] Show studied area locations and distributions of sampling programs. Notice the three locations destroyed by Tomahawk Cruise Missile, in the east bank of the Tigris river in Mosul.

Extensive studies of the following were done before the sampling program.

1-      Population distribution
2-      Climatological conditions (rainfall, temp. prevailing winds, etc.)
3-      Surface geographical features
4-      Hydrology of the area
5-      Soil conditions
6-      Geology of the area
7-      Previous contamination from the Chernobyl accident.

Results of Field and Laboratory Tests:
Tables (7), (8), (9) shows three major test results

Table (7): Average Exposure Measurements

Table (8): Soil Sample Average Activity Measurements

All higher measurements are close or in the windward direction of the three destroyed targets by the (AGM 154 AJSOW) Cruise Missiles.

Important conclusion of that study:
Cruise missiles used to destroy these three targets contain uranium or depleted uranium metal.

Considering this conclusion, the amount of DU from (800 – 1200) [3] Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, and from the Bunker Buster Bombs used from 2003 – 2005 are way larger than the released figures by the IIMO leaders or even estimated by the other concerned organizations or groups (1100 – 2100) tons.

VII. Other Radiological Contaminations:
1. Al-Tuwaitha Nuclear Complex Disaster

In an attempt to eliminate the evidences of DU contamination resulting from 1991 or IIMO in 2003 the occupying forces allowed the looters to sabotage the Tuwaitha Nuclear Complex south of Baghdad [21]

About 600 tons of natural uranium and Cobalt-60 in the complex contained in sealed, isolated, fenced area under the inspection and monitoring of IAEA were all looted.

Storage of the two Tamouz nuclear reactors highly contaminated parts, instruments, motors, pipes, tools, etc. on the same site were also looted. In addition to about 500 barrels of radioactive waste.

The looters knew nothing about the health hazards of radioactive materials, spilled the uranium and the radioactive waste, and the cobalt 60 on grounds and some in the nearby Tigris river segment close to the complex. They wanted to use the nice colored standard radioactive waste barrels to keep food and water in their houses.

Green Peace radioactivity measurements in some of the Tuwaitha villages houses reached (1300 – 10,000) times the natural background levels [21]

2. Al Mosul Uranium Extraction Site (Al Jazeera) Site

Where highly contaminated instruments, tools, machines, and waste ponds are located and monitored by the IAEA and all inspection teams during the nineties.

The looters took the contaminated instruments and destroyed the radioactive waste ponds to take the reinforcement of the concrete resulting in serious groundwater contamination surrounding the area has occurred. The whole area needs an emergency plan to define the heavily polluted spots and act accordingly.

VIII. Concluding Remarks:
IIMO Iraq Invasion Military Operations from 1991/2003 to this day impose catastrophic environmental problems under the sight of the international community, the United Nations, WHO, UNEP, UNDP and all other international organizations.

Insisting of adding huge extra radioactive DU contaminants to what is already existing from 1991 to prove that a genocide is gradually being implemented not only against the Iraqi population, but to all natural ecosystems in the region.
Chemical, biological and radiological pollution is causing an increased human health degradation and suffering hospitals are not allowed to release any information, photos, or records.

An outbreak of cancer cases, miscarriages, fertility problems and congenital malformations have already begun in Baghdad, Rumadi, Balad, Tikrit, and Mosul in addition to what has been going on in the southern cities since 1991.

Universities and research centers and scientific communities are forbidden from touching the issue of Depleted Uranium or even conduction any type of risk assessments related to the war and occupation military processes.

International organizations and groups should conduct an emergency comprehensive radiological survey and risk assessment to define hazardous high radioactivity areas before it is too late.

The risk model should include the combined effect of hydrocarbons, soot, dust and DU oxide plumes during first three weeks of the IIMO.



To all the groups, activists, countries and people who stood firm against the war in Iraq and other parts of the world.

To all the scientists who have been detained or killed by occupation forces because they revealed the truth about the dangers of DU weapons in Iraq in 1991.

To Dr. Alim Yacoub and Dr. Huda Ammash.

To all of you honest, brave women and men who committed their lives and continue the struggle against all kinds of atrocities in the world.

To all of you I present my appreciation, deepest respect and love.

Thank you.
About the author: SOUAD NAJI AL-AZZAWI (Iraq)
Director of the doctorate program in environmental engineering. She studied geological and environmental engineering in the USA. After graduating in 1991, she returned home to Baghdad in the midst of the Gulf War. In 1996, together with six researchers, she was able to do a survey on the radiation in the soil, air and water in southern Iraq.