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The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Iraqi scientists are to work together to assess claims that NATO’s use of weapons containing depleted uranium has led to an increased incidence of certain diseases in Iraq.

Iraqi scientists say that occurrences of cancers, renal disease and congenital malformations in the country have risen since the use of depleted uranium during the 1991 Gulf War.

But establishing definite answers could be difficult, in what has been described as an ‘epidemiological nightmare’. It is unclear whether Iraq has a reliable basis for collecting health data, and many factors, such as poor nutrition and other contaminants left by the war, could have influenced the country’s health statistics.

Reference: Nature 413, 97 (2001)

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