FALLUJAH, Iraq, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Birth defects and early childhood cancers have soared in Fallujah, site of two major battles after the invasion of Iraq, doctors say.
Doctors say they are unsure what is behind the spike in birth defects, The Guardian reported, but suggest it might be chemicals used during the two periods of intense fighting.
"We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies," said Dr. Ayman Qais. "Before 2003 I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically."
British and Iraqi officials and doctors have asked the United Nations to set up an international committee to investigate the birth defects and to clean up toxic substances in Fallujah. The city was the site of some of the worst fighting, including a battle in which the United States admitted using white phosphorus.
Studies suggest the rate of birth defects is about 15 times higher than elsewhere in Iraq. Clusters of congenital defects have also been found in Basra and Najaf, also racked by violence after the 2003 invasion.