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Iraqi Minister Admits Gas Flaring Cancer Link

Iraqi Environment Minister Jassem al-Falahi has acknowledged that pollution from oil production is the main reason for increases in local cancer rates.

His comments came after a BBC Arabic investigation revealed that communities living close to oil fields near Basra are at elevated risk of leukaemia.

These communities suspect gas flaring – the “wasteful” burning of gas released in oil drilling – is to blame.

Flaring produces cancer-linked pollutants like benzene.

The environment minister’s comments, made to the BBC’s HARDtalk programme, come despite a confidential order issued by the Iraqi prime minister – and seen by BBC Arabic – banning its employees from speaking about health damage caused by pollution.

They also directly contradict previous comments made to BBC Arabic, by the Minister of Oil, Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail, in which he denied all links between the cancer rates and air pollution from oil.

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