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Investigating the hazardous effects of Chemical Weapons remains of in the environment.

Analyzing soil samples from Halabja for toxic substances and identifying toxicological effects of compounds remaining in the soil.

Between 1987-1988 vast areas of Iraq were subjected to repeated attacks of chemical weapons (CW). The town of Halabja was attacked with a mixture of both blistering sulphur mustard (bis(2-chloroethyl) sulfide (H)), organophosphorus and VX (O-ethyl S[2-(diisopropylamino)ethyl]methylphosphonothioate) nerve gases which killed and injured thousands of civilians (Kelly October 30, 2008). After the CW attacks inhabitants of the countryside of Iraqi Kurdistan were prevented from cultivating their lands or re-inhabiting their villages. However, after the last Gulf War (1991), most farmers returned to their previously contaminated farms and villages. Physicians and oncologists in that region are alarmed that the cancer risks in the locals are very high. There are reports showing that very young individuals dye of large, aggressive, rapidly metastasizing tumors.

To date, there has been no systematic and detailed epidemiological and/or mechanistic research studies carried out in Halabja since the attack. There is no knowledge about how the long-term damages caused by these weapons can be treated or avoided. Furthermore, very little is known about the long-term fate of the chemical weapon agents (CWA) in the soil, and also in their residual hazard to human. There is an urgent need for reliable and solid research about this important subject.

I have been particularly interested in the observed elevated cancer risk in this population. Other reported problems are increased severe respiratory problems, congenital malformations, neurological and psychiatric problems. Skin and eye problems, infertility miscarriages, stillbirths, neonatal and infant deaths.

The chemotherapy and radiotherapy for these CW-induced cancers may differ from therapy of other cancers. Therefore, identification of specific CWA-induced mutations could have valuable clinical implications.

I believe that traces of CWA degradation products are still present in the soil, having harmful effects on the health of the locals. Therefore, I am analyzing soil samples from Halabja for CWA degradation products. Thereafter I will map the cellular toxicity profile of the extract prepared the soil samples.

Selected Publication:

In progress…