Work to remove chemical and nuclear waste from various sites in Iraq has been suspended after almost three years, raising concerns about the potential impact on the environment and public health. Engineers and scientists working on the program cite technical disagreements with the government, but some also suggest that corruption could be to blame.
“Leaving the chemical residues of such materials at the facility site has caused Iraqis many diseases and environmental disasters,” Majed Al-Saadi, 55, the head of the research team, said in a phone call. Many families who used to live nearby had been moved “for fear of diseases and malformations,” he added.
Muthanna State Establishment, about 140 kilometres north-west of Baghdad, was Iraq’s main chemical weapons research and production facility from 1983 to 1991. In the late 1990s it was used by United Nations arms inspectors tasked with collecting and destroying weapons of mass destruction. Undetermined amounts of toxic chemicals were buried in air attacks during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.