Radioactive Element Found
In US Baby Teeth
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Higher-than-expected levels of a man-made, cancer-causing element first introduced as a by-product of nuclear bomb tests has been found in baby teeth collected near nuclear power plants in three states, U.S. researchers said Thursday.
Directors of the non-profit Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) said at a news conference that levels of the element, radioisotope Strontium (Sr-90), should have dropped to almost zero once all global aboveground nuclear bomb testing ended in 1980.
Most of the 515 teeth analyzed were from the 1979-1992 period and had similar concentrations of Strontium-90 as those found in children in the mid-1950s when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were still doing atmospheric nuclear bomb tests, according to initial findings of a RPHP study.
``There is cancer-causing Strontium-90 in children's teeth. It shouldn't be there,'' Dr Ernest Sternglass, Professor Emeritus of Radiological Physics at the University of Pittsburgh said in releasing the initial findings of independent laboratory analysis conducted on 515 baby teeth from New York, New Jersey and Florida.
RPHP said the chemical structure of Strontium-90 is similar to calcium and the body is deceived by it and deposits Sr-90 in bones and teeth where it remains, emitting cancer-causing radiation.
RPHP directors attributed some of the radioactivity to accidents such as the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania in 1979 and the Chernobyl reactor disaster in 1986. They said state and federal records showed a large amount of airborne emissions in the early 1980s from four nuclear reactors located near Suffolk County, New York.
``If it is not underground testing or aboveground testing, clearly the prime suspects are nuclear reactors or nuclear reactor accidents,'' Sternglass said. ``The world has become too small for nuclear accidents to affect only the 10-mile zone of evacuation.''
RPHP is calling for a national study by the U.S. government. It said a private foundation is supporting RPHP's plans to collect and analyze 5,000 baby teeth from across the country in ``nuclear'' and ``non-nuclear'' counties.
The teeth for the RPHP study were collected as part of the ''Tooth Fairy Project,'' an appeal to parents by actor Alec Baldwin to send in baby teeth they put under their children's pillows for the ``Tooth Fairy'' after they fell out. Baldwin, a resident of Suffolk County on Long Island where RPHP focused part of its study, said he sent out 15,000 letters toparents in February 1999.
``The initial findings are disturbing,'' Baldwin said at the news conference. He added that ``the same results (as in the mid-50s) should merit the same level of concern.''
Strontium-90 was linked to childhood cancer during the 1950s, causing health concerns that led to President John F. Kennedy signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1963 banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water. France and China continued aboveground testing until 1980.