Doug Westerman of the Centre for Research on Globalization writes in Depleted Uranium – Far Worse Than 9/11:

Doctors in southern Iraq are making comparisons to the birth defects that followed the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII. They have numerous photos of infants born without brains, with their internal organs outside their bodies, without sexual organs, without spines, and the list of deformities goes on an on. Such birth defects were extremely rare in Iraq prior to the large scale use of DU. Weapons. Now they are commonplace.

Is it true that those birth defects are now a lot more common?

  • 2
    This is a conspiracy site, I wouldn't call it a credible claim in the first place. Nov 17, 2015 at 0:26
  • 1
    Did the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cause birth defects, apart from those who were growing when the bombing occurred?
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 17, 2015 at 7:35
  • 4
    @LorenPechtel To be on-topic, Skeptics requires that claims are notable, not that they are credible. If many people read a particular site (and for globalresearch.ca, I believe they do), are likely to share their articles on social media etc., then those claims do become notable. Also, even on sites that spread mostly conspiracy theories, it's possible that they hit right once in a hundred times.
    – gerrit
    Nov 17, 2015 at 11:34
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    This is the Skeptics.SE post I was thinking about with regards to The atomic bombing of Japan: skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/1002/104 It indicated no increase in birth defects was detected.
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 21, 2015 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: The range of birth defects reported in the reviewed studies from Iraq do not provide a clear evidence of a possible environmental exposure including depleted uranium or other teratogenic agents per research in 2012 since enough data on pre-1991 Gulf War prevalence of birth defects in Iraq are not available.

As no enough data on pre 1991 Gulf War prevalence of birth defects in Iraq are available, the ranges of birth defects reported in the reviewed studies from Iraq most probably do not provide a clear indication of a possible environmental exposure including DU or other teratogenic agents although the country has faced several environmental challenges since 1980. Source: Birth defects in Iraq and the plausibility of environmental exposure: A review

There may be other possibilities for the causative effect of cancer and birth defects in Iraq and depleted uranium is one of the relevant exposure agents causing congenital abnormalities studied per research mentioned here and here.


  1. Animal studies firmly support the possibility that depleted uranium is a teratogen. Uranium is known to be a developmental toxicant when orally or subcutaneously provided to mice.

Decreased fertility, embryo/fetal toxicity including teratogenicity, and reduced growth of the offspring have been observed following uranium exposure at different gestation periods.

  1. Some epidemiological studies such as one conducted in 2001 found that the risk of veterans reporting birth defects among their children was significantly associated with veteran's military service in the Gulf War. However, other studies such as this, this and a comphrehensive review on adverse reproductive outcomes and birth Defects in Gulf War Veterans in 2014 found no consistent evidence of a strong association between Gulf War deployment of servicemen and major, clearly defined, birth defects among infants conceived by them after the war. Chronic exposure to depleted uranium did not induce significant levels of chromosome damage in Gulf War-I Veterans with embedded DU fragments or inhalation exposure due to involvement in friendly-fire incidents.

The 2008 report noted that although statistically significant small increases in birth defect rates were found, overall rates of birth defects are within the range of those found in the general population.

  1. Human epidemiological evidence which include case examples, disease registry records, case-control study and prospective longitudinal studies is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to depleted uranium.

The two most significant challenges to establishing a causal pathway between (human) parental DU exposure and the birth of offspring with defects are: i) distinguishing the role of DU from that of exposure to other potential teratogens; ii) documentation on the individual level of extent of parental DU exposure. Studies that use biomarkers, none yet reported, can help address the latter challenge.

  1. An WHO 2013 congenital birth defects study report for 18 states in Iraq found that the rates for spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital birth defects found in the study were consistent to or within international estimates of such defects. However, there were several questions raised on this report in both the internationally renowned journals such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal mentioned here.

Several of WHO's expert reviewers raise methodological concerns about the study. Its “main limitation is that it is largely based on what people reported, without any medical examination”, says Cousens. At the Fafo Foundation in Oslo, social anthropologist John Pedersen adds that the study's limited geographical scope (Iraq has more than 100 districts) sharply reduces its relevance in understanding the national pattern and prevalence of birth defects in Iraq. “I wouldn't necessarily have designed the study in the same way as it was designed”, explains Pedersen, who notes that lower rates of birth defects could be expected from mothers' recollections than if doctors had been asked to report them. Source: Questions raised over Iraq congenital birth defects study.

Search Method:

Search tool - US National Library of Medicine Pubmed

Keywords - depleted uranium defects

Article types - Clinical Trials

Hits - 23

Selection for Inclusion - Iraq, Gulf war US veterans

Selection for exclusion however used in explanation - Relevant mice and cell studies

Final count-6

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