[ RadSafe ] NY Times-Study of Baby Teeth Sees Radiation Effects

Maury Siskel maurysis at peoplepc.com
Tue Dec 14 03:42:59 CST 2010

Roger, could you do a letter to the NYT on this?
Roger Helbig wrote:

>This reporter could stand some education on Mangano and Sherman - sorry to
>see that this hit the NY Times - 
>has link to e-mail this reporter
>December 13, 2010
>Study of Baby Teeth Sees Radiation Effects
>Men who grew up in the St. Louis area in the early 1960s and died of cancer
>by middle age had more than twice as much radioactive strontium in their
>baby teeth as men born in the same area at the same time who are still
>living, according to a study based on teeth collected years ago by
>Washington University in St. Louis.
>The study, published on Dec. 1 in The International Journal of Health
>Services, analyzed baby teeth collected during the era when the United
>States and the Soviet Union were conducting nuclear bomb tests in the
>atmosphere. The study seeks to help scientists determine the health effects
>of small radiation doses, and to say how many people died from bomb fallout.
>There is very little reliable data on the relationship of radiation to
>cancer at low doses, so scientists instead use extrapolations from higher
>doses, which introduces large uncertainties into their calculations.
>The study implies that deaths from bomb fallout globally run into the "many
>thousands," said the authors, Joseph J. Mangano and Dr. Janette D. Sherman,
>both of the Radiation and Public Health Project, nonprofit research group
>based in New York.
>However, a scientist with long experience in the issue, Kevin D. Crowley,
>the senior board director of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board at the
>National Research Council, urged caution in interpreting the findings.
>"It sounds like the best you could do is say this is an association," he
>said. "An association is not necessarily causative."
>R. William Field, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, praised the
>authors for exploring the association between fallout in teeth and cancer,
>but he that said the sample size was too small and that the study had other
>limitations. He called for follow-ups.
>The study's authors had previously tried to link strontium in the teeth of
>children growing up near nuclear power plants to releases from those plants,
>but those findings have not met with much scientific acceptance. Strontium
>levels in a person's body may have more to do with where the person's food
>was farmed than with where the person lives. In addition, the Nuclear
>Regulatory Commission calculated that the doses from radioactive strontium
>in the environment add only about 0.3 percent to the average American's
>background exposure.
>But this study tries to link differences in tooth contamination more
>directly with health outcomes. The study measured the ratio of calcium, a
>basic building block of teeth and bones, to strontium 90, which is absorbed
>just as calcium is. The authors said they were using strontium as a proxy
>for all long-lived fallout components, and they picked boys born in a period
>when there was a lull in atmospheric testing, so that the boys' exposure to
>short-lived radioactive materials, in utero or in the first few months of
>life, was minimized. They limited their research to boys because men seldom
>change their names and thus were easier to trace.
>The authors found that among 3,000 tooth donors, born in 1959, 1960 or the
>first half of 1961, 84 had died, 12 of those from cancer. The authors
>selected two "control" cases, people still living, for each of those who had
>died. The controls were born in the same county, within 40 days of the
>person who later died. The study compared incisors with incisors, and molars
>with molars.
>The people who would later die of cancer had an average of 7.0 picocuries of
>per gram of tooth; the control cases, who have never had cancer, had an
>average of 3.1 picocuries per gram.
>But the picture is not completely clear. Measurements of the teeth of people
>who later had cancer but survived it did not show strontium levels markedly
>different from those who had never had cancer, according to the study. One
>reason may be that those nonfatal cancers were often polyps and melanomas
>not related to radiation.
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