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Five years to study radiation in baby teeth

February 14, 2014

Fukushima dental group to study baby teeth for radiation exposure

By YOSHITAKA ITO/ Staff Writer

FUKUSHIMA--The prefectural dental association has started a five-year study to measure radiation levels in baby teeth to better determine the health effects of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

Radiation tends to collect in baby teeth as they develop and does not metabolize, giving researchers the opportunity to take accurate measurements of radiation exposure when the child was younger.

Officials of the Fukushima Prefecture Dental Association said the project, supported by the Environment Ministry, will be the first in Japan to use teeth to analyze radiation exposure.

The dental association will ask parents to provide the baby teeth of their children who were living in Fukushima Prefecture when the meltdowns occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011.

The association hopes to collect 4,000 teeth a year to measure concentrations of radioactive strontium and cesium.

Researchers at Tohoku University in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, and Ohu University in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, will also take part in the project.

Depending on the condition of the teeth turned in, it may take researchers several years to measure radiation levels.

The results of the study will be announced at academic conferences, while people in Fukushima Prefecture who donate the teeth will be informed individually of the measurements.

Dentists who are members of the prefecture dental association will ask parents and guardians for their consent to collect the baby teeth of their children that have fallen out or have been pulled.

They will send the collected teeth to a research facility at the graduate school of Tohoku University.

The association will also conduct a comparative study of baby teeth from children who live outside of Fukushima Prefecture. Dental association officials said they will ask their counterparts in Kyushu and other regions for help in the project.

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