Radiation Danger raises Concern, Controversy in Iraq

Jawad al-Shammari, the media director at the Office of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights in Baghdad, said in a Jan. 29 news conference, “A team was dispatched to determine whether or not there is carcinogenic radiation in Baghdad’s Sadr City.” He later told Al-Monitor that, just for Sadr City alone, it would take $42,000 to collect radioactive waste and move it to a remote area. The waste is mostly from abandoned military equipment, he said.

Shammari added, “By virtue of the duty to protect [all] citizens’ right to live in a safe environment, the High Commission [then] called for a field survey in all parts of Iraq to detect contamination and dispose of radioactive sources in landfills.” The government has yet to respond to that request, he said.

Parliament member Adel Rashash al-Mansouri, who represents Basra province in southern Iraq, told Al-Monitor that of all cancer deaths in his province, radiation contamination is responsible for 75%.

Speaking to Al-Monitor about pollution in combat areas and leftover radioactive military equipment, Ministry of Environment Undersecretary Jassim Abdul Aziz Hamadi al-Falahi said the situation is under control. He added, “These areas are classified and isolated, and most of them are monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

Falahi noted, “The Iraqi state is not standing idle, as several specialized bodies are monitoring radioactive contamination rates and the surface area of contaminated sites, including the Iraq Radioactive Sources Regulatory Authority, the Radiation Protection Center and the Radioactive Waste Treatment and Management Directorate affiliated with the Ministry of Science and Technology.”

He added, “Contaminated sites were divided into two parts. The first [kind] is related to the rubble and remnants of the war and is under periodic monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and subject to its standards. The second includes the sites where depleted uranium bombs were used and [those are] under the supervision of the Radiation Protection Center.”

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