Iran: Alarming statistics of increasing cancer in Ahwaz region linked to air pollution

In the past, Ahwazi people were rarely hearing about cancer but cancer is now more common than flu among them. The air pollution in Ahwaz led to a sharp increase of leukemia, liver cancer, skin cancer and birth defects. As a result, panicked residents fear for their health as it has come to light that the air Ahwazi people breathes is laced with carcinogenic substances and depleted uranium.

In more than a decade, air pollution crisis has caused in the region cancer and chronic breathing disorders. However, the solution is still unclear as the environmental health problems are skyrocketing that are likely threatening the lives of an estimated eight million Ahwazi Arab in the south and south west of Iran.

Shafa ill-equipped state hospital, the only specialized cancer treatment center in Ahwaz, today is the last chance for people who are tired with war and environmental pollution to undergo chemotherapy treatments. Almost 90 percent of children and adults who suffer from cancer in Ahwaz go to the Shafa hospital for treatment.

According to Kaveh Jaseb, ex-chief of Shafa hospital, oncologist and pediatric cancer in Ahwaz region, cancer is claiming more and more victims in Ahwaz. The official statistics show that the new numbers of people diagnosed with cancer from 1996 to 2013 have increased by nearly 500 percent. This should sound the alarm for Ahwazi people, especially as it had ranked the worst in terms of air quality. He added that there is direct correlation between the increasing numbers of cancer patients and air pollution in Ahwaz region. Currently there are as many as 1000 patients diagnosed with various kinds of cancer due to the air and water pollution.

There was a growth in the number of new patients with cancer from 223 case in 1996 to 1000 in 2013, bearing in mind that Al-Ahwaz population had a maximum growth of 25 percent during this period. The cancers specialists in Ahwaz warned that the rise of cancer is too overwhelming and dangerous, and even if all we have had estimated are remaining just hypotheses, it must be considered more seriously.

Most recently the international Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) officially considered the air pollution as the first cause of cancer. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) mentioned for the second time the Ahwaz region, the oil production center in Iran, as the most polluted city in the world. Indeed, like other ten polluted cities in the WHO list, Ahwaz is very industrial city. Although the weather has been awful in Ahwaz region for years, it is getting worse every year. Since 2002, Ahwaz became one of the places where the rise of air pollution and the dust storms are more frequent.

The number of days in which the dust storm event happened in Ahwaz region from 2002 to 2013 has increased the air pollution by 800 percent. Hence, as air pollution is considered an environmental pollution factor, there will be a direct and responsible link between cancer patients and the number of days in which the dust phenomenon happened. This air pollution has jeopardized the lives of Ahwazi people and no effective plan has been taken to remedy it so far.

It is certainly obvious that intensity and frequency of dust storm (one of the major factors of air pollution) was increased since some Ahwazi prominent ecosystems, such as falahyah marshlands, have been damaged deva - stately due to water diverting projects and excessive dam’s construction. Moreover, the policy of excessive dam construction does not pursue any economical reason. On the contrary, it increases social pressure on Ahwazi people and destroyes the ecology of Ahwaz region systematically. The water of Ahwaz is also the second reason of outbreak of cancer: in fact the sewage of hospitals, abattoirs and other waste waters in Ahwaz pour directly into the Karoon River that all local residents use as source of drinking water.

Written by Rahim Hamid, Ahwazi Arab writer

Click on the link below to read the entire article which incudes also the stories and the testimonies of some families whose children are affected by cancer due to air and water pollution in Ahwaz .

Click on the photos below for a gallery of pictures and a chart providing more details.

Photo: Shafa hospital. Credit: ISNA

Yasemin photo: ISNA. Chart and Maasomeh photos: Mehr news agency. 


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Date: 24/02/2014





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Name: Rahim Hamid, Ahwazi Arab

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