The Baby Tooth Survey was initiated by the Greater St. Louis Citizens’ Committee for Nuclear Information in conjunction with Saint Louis University and the Washington University School of Dental Medicine as a means of determining the effects of nuclear fallout in the human anatomy by examining the levels of radioactive material absorbed into the deciduous teeth of children.
Founded by the husband and wife team of physicians Eric and Louise Reiss, along with other scientists such as Barry Commoner, the research focused on detecting the presence of strontium-90, a cancer-causing radioactive isotope created by the more than 400 atomic tests conducted above ground that is absorbed from water and dairy products into the bones and teeth given its chemical similarity to calcium. The team sent collection forms to schools in the St. Louis, Missouri area, hoping to gather 50,000 teeth each year. Ultimately, the project collected over 300,000 teeth from children of various ages before the project was ended in 1970.
Preliminary results published by the team in the November 24, 1961, edition of the journal Science showed that levels of strontium 90 in children had risen steadily in children born in the 1950s, with those born later showing the most increased levels. The results of a more comprehensive study of the elements found in the teeth collected showed that children born after 1963 had levels of strontium 90 in their baby teeth that was 50 times higher than that found in children born before the advent of large-scale atomic testing. The findings helped convince U.S. President John F. Kennedy to sign the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the United Kingdom and Soviet Union, which ended the above-ground nuclear weapons testing that placed the greatest amounts of nuclear fallout into the atmosphere.
A set of 85,000 teeth that had been uncovered in storage in 2001 by Washington University were given to the Radiation and Public Health Project. By tracking 3,000 individuals who had participated in the tooth-collection project, the RHPR published results in a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Health Service that showed that the 12 children who later died of cancer before the age of 50 had levels of strontium 90 in their stored baby teeth that was twice the level of those who were still alive at 50.
After that things seemed to settle down okay for a while. Then came Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl. Tooth Fairies were dying off like flies. Gums rotting away, skin peeling off them like overcoats.
Fact is, we almost lost the whole kaboodle of Tooth Fairies when the Japanese started dumping all the radioactivity they could scrape together and sending it into the atmosphere headed for Alaska, California, Washington and Oregon. Pumping water hotter than a two-dollar pistol into the Pacific Ocean.
Tooth Fairy recruitment programs went to zilch. Finding new Tooth Fairies to replace the ones getting the blind staggers was tougher than the Mother Church trying to find women willing to be nuns.
Luckily, the US Military and the National Academy of Multi-Layered Police Forces, comprising about half the US population, came to the rescue. Provided pistols to be held to the temples of potential Tooth Fairies who were trying to take French leave from the job. But to compensate, providing body armor and radioactivity sniffing dogs to help the ones still able bodied enough to slip into a bedroom at night and reach under a pillow for a tooth stay alive longer.
Saved again by the police and the US military and mercenary forces.