Childhood Cancer in South Florida
Miami, Florida - A South Florida Baby Teeth and Cancer Case Study, that was officially released today, finds that infants and children are especially vulnerable to cancer caused by federally-permitted radiation releases from nuclear reactors, such as the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power plants, located in southeast Florida.
The five-year baby teeth study, also known as the "Tooth Fairy Project," found a 37% rise in the average levels of radioactive Strontium-90 (Sr-90) in southeast Florida baby teeth from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. When compared with baby teeth collected from 18 Florida counties, the highest levels of Sr-90 were found in the six southeast Florida counties closest to the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear reactors: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River.
The current rise of radiation levels in baby teeth in Florida and in the U.S. as a whole reverses a long-term downward trend in Sr-90 levels since the 1960s, after President Kennedy banned aboveground testing of nuclear weapons 1963, due to concerns about increasing childhood cancer and leukemia rates from fallout.
Radioactive Sr-90 is a known carcinogen, which is only produced by fission reactions in nuclear weapons or reactors. It enters the body along with chemically similar calcium, and is stored in bone and teeth, where it can be measured years later using well-established laboratory techniques.
Significantly, the study documented that the average levels of Sr-90 found in the teeth of children diagnosed with cancer were nearly twice as high as those found in the teeth of children without cancer.
Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Professor Emeritus of Radiation Physics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and co-author of the study said that "although radioactive emissions can enter the air, soil and diet, the most significant source of Sr-90 in southeast Florida children's teeth is groundwater, the primary source of southeast Florida's public drinking supply. This is due to the area's high rainfall and shallow aquifer."
The study found the highest levels of radioactivity in samples of drinking water found within 20 miles of the Turkey Point (located south of Miami) and St. Lucie (located north of West Palm Beach) nuclear power plants, while levels of radioactivity were significantly lower in water samples further away from the reactors.
The rise in Sr-90 levels in both drinking water and baby teeth parallels a 32.5% rise in cancer rates in children under 10 in the southeast Florida counties, which are closest to the nuclear power plants. This compares with a average 10.8% rise in national childhood cancer rates from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.
The baby teeth study conclusions are consistent with the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admission that children age 2 and younger are 10 times more susceptible than adults to the cancer causing effects of toxic chemicals and radioactivity. According to the National Cancer Institute's SEER Cancer Statistics Review, from early 1970s to late 1990s, U.S. childhood cancer overall has increased by 26%, brain cancer by 50%, leukemia by 45% and bone cancer by 40%.
"There is now substantial evidence that exposure to federally-permitted radiation releases from nuclear reactors is a significant cause of increasing childhood cancer rates in southeast Florida, as well as a risk factor for cancer in Americans of all ages," said Dr. Jerry Brown, the study's co-author and Founding Professor, Florida International University in Miami.
Dr. Brown noted that, "the recent 2003 Recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk found that the world-wide health effects of very low levels of radioactivity have been vastly underestimated."
In a Statement on Baby Teeth Study, Samuel Epstein, M.D., wrote, "Given prior evidence of the relationship between childhood cancer and radioactive emissions from 103 aging nuclear power plants in the U.S., and the well established biological risks of radioactive Strontium-90, it is now critical to recognize that radioactive emissions from commercial nuclear power plants pose a grave threat to public health in southeast Florida and throughout the nation." Dr. Epstein is Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health, and Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition.
The study was conducted by the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) and funded by the Health Foundation of South Florida. The Radiation and Pubic Health Project is an independent not-for-profit research organization, established by scientists and physicians to investigate the links between environmental radiation, cancer and public health.
The Health Foundation of South Florida, a not-for-profit grantmaking foundation, is dedicated to expanding access to affordable, quality health care and providing funding that directly benefits the health and well being of underserved individuals in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Since its inception in 1993, the Foundation has awarded more than $42 million in grants and direct program support.
Available for Interview at Press Conference
- Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Chief Scientist, RPHP; Professor Emeritus, Radiation Physics, University of Pittsburgh Medical School; co-Principal Investigator of the Report.
- Dr. Jerry Brown, Research Associate, RPHP; Founding Professor, Florida International University; co-Principal Investigator of the Report. (English and Spanish)
- Lilyana and Bill Sager (Lilly), Miami, Florida, daughter diagnosed with cancer submitted tooth to study. Ms. Sanger will discuss why she supports the baby teeth study, her reactions to findings, and her concerns over increasing cancer in the Cutler Ridge area of South Miami-Dade County (English and Spanish)
- Lee Klein, CEO, Children's Cancer Caring Center, founder of organization that provides free medical care to needy families of children with cancer in South Florida and throughout Latin America.
- Steven Marcus, President and CEO, and Peter Wood, Chief Program Officer, Health Foundation of South Florida, an independent not for profit organization benefiting community healthcare and education. The Health Foundation funded the South Florida Baby Teeth and Cancer Case Study.
- Barbara Garrett, Senior Vice President, Applica Inc., a Miami Lakes-company that has supported the national baby teeth study.
- Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health and Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition. Dr. Epstein has reviewed the Research Report and provided a written Statement on Baby Teeth Study
- Dr. Hari Sharma, President, Radiological and Environmental Measurement Systems, Waterloo, Canada. Dr. Sharma is an international expert in radiological measurements and manages the independent lab that tests the baby teeth.
- Debi Santoro, mother who's infant has nerve cancer and who has submitted tooth to study and had her water tested.
- Audra Malone-Schmidt, mother of child with cancer who submitted tooth to study.
- Dava Michaelson, mother and breast cancer survivor, who has submitted daughter's tooth to the study.