Medical Geology in the Middle East

  • Humam MisconiEmail author
  • Maryam Navi
Part of the International Year of Planet Earth book series (IYPE)


The Middle East region has reported some endemic diseases which are more prominent than in other parts of the world and in some cases have been seen only in this region. This chapter provides information and addresses various cases from all over the Middle East.

The Middle East is well known for its arid and semi-arid environment with frequent and severe dust- and sand storms. This has affected human health in the southern provinces of Iran like the southwestern Khuzestan Province and the southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan Provinces. Health effects of dust storms in Khuzestan Province include asthma in some cities, especially for people with chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. In spite of the fact that dust and sand storms endanger the lives of over 3 million of Khuzestan Province inhabitants, no detailed studies exist on the nature, type, and health effects of wind-blown dust and sand. Also, two main regions in Iraq including Baghdad and Al-Basra are stricken frequently by dust and sand storms, but little attention has been paid to study the health impact of dust and sand storms in Iraq. This section shows health impacts of dust storms in four case studies.

Numerous examples from all over the Middle East are illustrated on element toxicities such as arsenic and fluorine and deficiencies, especially iodine deficiency. This chapter emphasizes health problems resulting from arsenic toxicities in the region and shows cases of the long-existing iodine deficiency disorders in the Middle East.

Several areas from the Middle East face high natural fluoride levels in drinking water. The levels of natural fluoride in drinking water of up to 3 mg l−1 were found in the Negev Desert region in Israel. In some parts of Saudi Arabia like Hail region a strong association is seen between fluoride levels in well water used for drinking and the severity of dental fluorosis. Mecca was also reported to be an area with endemic fluorosis. There are also some cities in Iran where high levels of fluoride in drinking water account for incidence of fluorosis.

The relationship between radon exposure and health effects in the Middle East is also described. Many epidemiological studies have shown a relationship between radon exposure and lung cancer. Case–control studies have also been carried out in Ramsar in northern Iran indicating inverse relationship between residential radon exposure and lung cancer.

Geophagia associated with iron and zinc deficiency, short stature, delayed sexual maturity, hepatosplenomegaly, and delayed bone age is reported from Middle East countries. This includes Shiraz in Iran, parts of Saudi Arabia, and Arab children from Gaza Strip.


Iran Iraq Jordan Israel Saudi Arabia Yemen Dust Arsenic Fluorine Iodine Geophagia 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ConsultantBaghdadIraq
  2. 2.National Geoscience Database of Iran, Geological Survey of IranTehranIran

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