Please zoom in or out and select the base layer according to your preference to make the map ready for printing, then press the Print button above.

Depleted Uranium, Iraq


In June 2011, the NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq (NCCI) published a report about the state of depleted uranium in Iraq stating that contamination from Depleted Uranium (DU) is strongly suspected of causing a sharp rise in congenital birth defects and cancer cases in Iraq with many prominent doctors and scientists stating that DU contamination is also connected to the recent emergence of diseases that were not previously seen in Iraq, such as illnesses in the kidney, lungs, and liver, as well as a total collapse of the immune system [1]

Depleted Uranium (DU) weaponry has been used against Iraq since the Gulf War in 1991. An estimated (DU) expenditure of 320 – 800 tons were shot mainly on the withdrawing Iraqi troops from Kuwait to the north of Basra City. The use of (DU) ammunition on Iraqi territory never stopped since 1991. Different generations of (DU) supported missiles & Bunker Buster Bombs have been used during the 90’s on what was known as the No-Fly Zones, and during the attack on Iraq in 1998. Bombing Iraq with DU continued during the military operations of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, then afterward in other cities which resisted the occupation of Iraq [2].

Areas in and near Iraq's largest towns and cities, including Najaf, Basra and ­Falluja, account for around 25% of the contaminated sites, which appear to coincide with communities that have seen increased rates of cancer and birth defects over the past five years. The joint study by the environment, health and science ministries found that scrap metal yards in and around Baghdad and Basra contain high levels of ionizing radiation [3]. The environment minister, Narmin Othman, said high levels of dioxins on agricultural lands in southern Iraq, in particular, were increasingly thought to be a key factor in a general decline in the health of people living in the poorest parts of the country.

Cleaning up more than 300 sites in Iraq still contaminated by depleted uranium (DU) weapons will cost at least $30m, according to a report by a Dutch peace group in 2013 [4].

The level of contamination actually rises at times as more radioactive remnants of war are uncovered. Children, unaware but fascinated, find and play with irradiated leftovers, such as abandoned vehicles and military equipment. Scrap metal dealers, some of whom are children, contribute to the spread of contamination, and unsuspecting factory workers actually burn contaminated bricks in furnaces for fuel [5]. 

Addressing the issue, the University of Babylon conducted an academic study, which was published in January 2017, that revealed the existence of radioactive contamination in the soil of many areas in Babylon province in central Iraq, just south of Baghdad, including a textile factory, the Musayyib and Alexandria utility plants, an automotive company and Hattin industrial facility. Babylon is where Saddam's regime established numerous military manufacturing plants [6].

The NCCI report also noted that many buildings hit by DU shells have been repaired and reoccupied, without any decontamination operation taking place. In some impoverished and rural areas, Iraqis are not well-educated about the dangers of approaching or disturbing discarded war munitions, and particularly DU. It is important to note that most Iraqi civilians do not have the means to test radioactivity levels, so it is therefore impossible for them to know what is safe with any certainty.

Moreover, and in terms of coordinated clean-up operations, there have been some initiatives to remove contaminated war waste s and materials. Yet many of these clean-up operations have been characterized as insufficient and implemented under inappropriate conditions. Serious health and environmental risks for those involved in clean-up operations can be exacerbated by pervasive negligence and a failure to adopt necessary precautionary procedures [1].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Depleted Uranium, Iraq
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Uranium
Scrap metal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

No specific project

Type of populationUnknown
Affected Population:Unknown
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Health
Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Science
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:IKV Pax Christi -

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsIncreasing rates of cancer
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:- Identify and fully clear sites contaminated with DU.
- Develop an integrated harm reduction strategy for DU and other environmental contaminants of war in Iraq
- Monitor populations living near identified contaminated sites and provide DU contamination medical tests for those who were potentially exposed.
- Acknowledge the complex health crisis that has evolved in Iraq since the First Gulf War and 2003 US-led invasion, and provide necessary support to patients and other appropriate actors.
- Conduct further scientific investigations into the possible health and environmental effects of DU in Iraq.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Iraqi government is too slow in taking the necessary measures to deal with the 300 contaminated sites.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] - NCCI Brief - Environmental Contaminants from War Remnants in Iraq (2011)

[2] - Depleted Uranium and Radioactive Contamination in Iraq: An Overview - Prof Souad N. Al-Azzawi (2017)

[3] - Iraq littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination, study finds - The Guardian (2010)

[5] - Radiation danger raises concern, controversy in Iraq - Al-Monitor (2017

[6] - University of Babylon Research (2017)رسالة-ماجستير-في-جامعة-بابل-تبحث-قياس-ا/

Other documents

[4] - IN A STATE OF UNCERTAINTY - Impact and implications of the use of depleted uranium in Iraq (2013) The use of depleted uranium (DU) in conventional munitions has generated controversy for more than 30 years. Research

increasingly supports the idea that there may be a link between its use and reports of increasing health problems in

those countries where it has been deployed. Of these, Iraq is by far the most affected country, with large quantities of DU

munitions used in 1991 and 2003. However, uncertainties over its impact and implications remain. This report is one

of the first to attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of the use of DU in Iraq by US and UK armed forces, and the

subsequent actions, or lack thereof, that have been undertaken to address the issue of DU contamination and resulting

exposure to civilians. Furthermore, it will provide an overview of reported health problems that might be related to exposure

to DU, and other toxic remnants of war, and will provide recommendations for next steps to be undertaken in order

to minimise the risks to the civilian population.

Meta information

Contributor:Christophe Maroun
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3107



Map showing toxic zones in Iraq

The Guardian (2010)