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Radiation Expert to Join THE BLUE to Discuss Cold War Baby Teeth from Tyson Research Center Bunker

Updated: Sep 18, 2020


National Archive Video

Epidemiologist, Joe Mangano with the group Radiation and Public Health is a researcher, author and caretaker of around 85,000 Cold War Era baby teeth left over from a Washington University study that helped end open-air testing of nuclear weapons.

The teeth, which originally were 320,000 in number, were discovered in a bunker at the Tyson Research Facility and subsequently donated to Mangano and his organization for research purposes by Washington University.

He is now working with Harvard University to electronically index the teeth for health studies by Harvard University and other research teams.

Joe Mangano will be joining THE BLUE, a podcast by Wildwood Councilman Joe Garritano and Steve Taylor to discuss what has been learned from the teeth so far, and what future discoveries may be made from this huge collection of Cold-War baby teeth.

The collection has been part of some contemporary, peer reviewed studies that have shown correlations between radiation exposure and cancer, but prior to that were critical in securing the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

After World War Two and until the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the United States, The Soviet Union and the United Kingdom routinely detonated hundreds of nuclear weapons in open air tests. Weapons detonated in one part of the world would create radioactive clouds that would travel in the Earth's atmosphere.

It was a group of concerned citizens, The Committee for Nuclear Information that pushed for research into the health effects of such nuclear detonations on the world's population.

The citizen's committee was successful, and a study spearheaded by Dr. Barry Commoner was conducted from Washington University. Known as the St. Louis Baby Tooth Study, researchers collected 320,000 baby teeth. From 1958 to 1970 teeth were collected from children, often with the help of dentists.

In a report that was shared with President John F. Kennedy's science advisor, analysis of the teeth showed an increase in radioactive Strontium 90. Strontium 90 mimics calcium and is absorbed in teeth and bone. Unlike gamma radiation, radio nucleotides linger, sometimes for thousands of years becoming part of the environmental landscape.

The report based on the baby teeth was the rational nexus of the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which ended open air testing.

Mangano, who has written 37 scientific peer reviewed articles as an epidemiologist is certain there is a wealth of information still waiting to be unlocked from this unique cold war cache.

Join Joe Garritano and Steve Taylor as they talk with Joe Mangano in the next installment of THE BLUE.