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Smoke and Mirrors

Photos of Baghdad

To thwart the missiles and surveillance systems of the U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi military set more than 20 trenches filled with crude oil ablaze. But the smoke did little more than fill the lungs of Baghdad's five million inhabitants with soot, sulfur, and dioxins. International health officials are debating how this acute exposure will affect the population's long-term health; future monitoring may be the only way to know. According to a study by the United Nations Environment Programme, oil left in trenches may be even more dangerous, seeping toxic substances such as hydrogen sulfide or benzene, a known carcinogen, into the soil and groundwater of the nation's metropolis. -- Christina Lorentz


OnEarth. Summer 2003
Copyright 2003 by the Natural Resources Defense Council