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Iraq's Secret Environmental Disasters

Horror stories of all types have emerged in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. But not only people were horrifically abused. Iraq's environment was tormented as well.

In the early 1970's a major methyl mercury-poisoning catastrophe occurred in which an estimated 10,000 people died and 100,000 were severely and permanently brain damaged. Saddam's regime was largely successful in suppressing information about the event.

The problem began in the late 1960's and early 1970's, when Iraq experienced a series of abysmal harvests. Since the "green revolution" was beginning, Iraq imported "wonder wheat" from Mexico. The risk was that the seed might grow moldy during the long, humid ocean transport to Iraq if it was not dressed with some fungicide. Methyl mercury became the most cost-effective fungicide, because it had recently been banned in Scandinavia and several American states due to environmental and toxicological risks. So the world market was flooded and prices dropped.

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