RPHP’s current tooth efforts are patterned after a study of 320,000 baby teeth in St. Louis from 1958-1970. Average Sr-90 in children rose rapidly while atomic bombs were tested above the Nevada desert, and declined rapidly after President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev signed the treaty ending large-scale tests above the ground. In 2001, officials at Washington University in St. Louis discovered 85,000 unused baby teeth from the original study that had been in storage for over three decades, and donated them to RPHP.
In a pilot project RPHP has found it is possible to identify a significant sample of teeth donors, finding current addresses for 80% of the male donors and death records for donors who died after 1971. Nearly half of the sampled surviving donors have expressed a willingness to complete a health history questionnaire.
Thus RPHP has determined that it is feasible use the St. Louis teeth to study whether or not Baby Boomers who developed cancer by age 45 had higher Sr-90 levels than those who are healthy at age 45. Such a study truly has ground-breaking potential, as very little information exists on harm from Nevada above-ground nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and early 1960s. The federal government has only produced a 1997 estimate that the tests caused up to 212,000 U.S. cases of thyroid cancer. In general there has been virtually no long-term health effects studies of low-level radiation exposure. This study presents an unusual opportunity to determine whether or not low levels impact on our health.
RPHP is beginning this study by attempting to identify 100 Baby Boomers with cancer, and then comparing their Sr-90 averages with that of 200 healthy Boomers. We hope the potential of such a study will encourage funders to contribute generously and thus allow us to proceed with greater dispatch.