Birth defects in Gaza: prevalence, types, familiarity and correlation with environmental factors

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 May;9(5):1732-1747. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9051732. Epub 2012 May 7.


This is the first report of registration at birth, and of incidence of major structural birth defects (BD) obtained in Gaza at Al Shifa Hospital, where 28% of total births in Gaza Strip occur. Doctors registered 4,027 deliveries, with a protocol comprehensive of clinical, demographic, kin and environmental questions. Prevalence of BD is 14/1,000, without association with intermarriage or gender of the child. Prevalence of late miscarriages and still births are respectively 23.3/1,000 and 7.4/1,000, and of premature births 19.6/1,000. Couples with a BD child have about 10 times higher frequency of recurrence of a BD in their progeny than those with normal children, but none of their 694 siblings and only 10/1,000 of their 1,423 progeny had BD, similar to the frequency in general population. These data suggest occurrence of novel genetic and epigenetic events in determination of BD. Children with BD were born with higher frequency (p < 0 001) in families where one or both parents were under "white phosphorus" attack, that in the general population. Bombing of the family home and removal of the rubble were also frequently reported by couples with BD occurrence. These data suggests a causative/favoring role of acute exposure of parents to the weapons-associated contaminants, and/or of their chronic exposure from their persistence in the environment on the embryonic development of their children.

Keywords: environmental teratogens; exposure to war related events; familiarity of birth defects; major structural birth defects; registration at birth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bombs
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Prevalence


  • Environmental Pollutants