Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Tooth Enamel Dating Technique Could Help Identify Disaster Victims

Date:
September 15, 2005
Source:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Summary:
The radioactive carbon-14 produced by above-ground nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s is providing forensic scientists with a more precise way to determine a person's age at the time of death. The method could help in the identification of victims of Hurricane Katrina and other large-scale disasters.

Researcher Michaele Kashgarian loads the 64-sample source turret of the mass spectrometer at LLNL’s Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry.
Credit: Image courtesy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Thenew technique, developed by researchers at Lawrence Livermore NationalLaboratory (LLNL) and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, determinesthe amount of carbon-14 in tooth enamel. Scientists can relate theextensive atmospheric record for carbon-14 to when the tooth was formedand calculate the age of the tooth, and its owner, to an accuracy ofwithin about 1.6 years.

“Unlike most other tissue, dental enameldoesn’t turn over,” said Bruce Buchholz of LLNL’s Center forAccelerator Mass Spectrometry, where the enamel samples were analyzed.“Whatever carbon gets laid down in enamel during tooth formation staysthere, so tooth enamel is a very good chronometer of the time offormation.

“We were surprised at how well it worked,” he said.“And if you look at multiple teeth formed at different times, you canget (the age range) even tighter.” Previous techniques, such asevaluating skeletal remains and tooth wear, are accurate only to withinfive to 10 years in adults, Buchholz said.

The research was reported in this week’s edition of the journal Nature.

Buchholzsaid Swedish forensic scientists already have used enamel dating tohelp narrow the search for victims of last December’s tsunami inSoutheast Asia. “After a few days in the water, it’s very hard toidentify someone,” he said. “You can’t use (enamel dating) to identifya person – that requires a DNA analysis – but you can narrow down thenumber of people you need to look at from a list of missing people.”

Livermoreofficials are providing information on the enamel dating technique tofederal agencies as part of the Laboratory’s scientific and technicalassistance in response to Hurricane Katrina. LLNL also is assisting insetting up emergency high-bandwidth communications and wirelessnetworks. The Laboratory’s Micropower-Impulse Radar (MIR) technologyalso is being deployed to assist search and rescue crews in locatinghurricane victims. This same technology was deployed in the daysfollowing the September 11 attacks in New York’s World Trade Centerrubble.

Carbon-14, or radiocarbon, is naturally produced bycosmic ray interactions with air and is present at low levels in theatmosphere and food. Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons from 1955to1963 produced a dramatic surge in the amount of radiocarbon in theatmosphere, Buchholz said.

“Even though the detonations wereconducted at only a few locations, the elevated carbon-14 levels in theatmosphere rapidly equalized around the globe,” he said. Sinceatmospheric testing was banned in 1963, the levels have droppedsubstantially as the carbon-14 reacted with oxygen to form carbondioxide, which was taken up by plants during photosynthesis and mixedwith the oceans.

“Because we eat plants and animals that live offplants, the carbon-14 concentration in our bodies closely parallelsthat in the atmosphere at any one time,” he said.

Buchholz andhis colleagues analyzed 33 teeth from 22 different people whose ageswere known. The enamel separations were done at the KarolinskaInstitute, and sample preparation and accelerator mass spectrometryanalysis was done at Lawrence Livermore.

The enamel datingtechnique doesn’t work for people born before 1943, because all oftheir teeth would have been formed before testing began in 1955.

Intheir Nature paper, Buchholz and his colleagues note that the techniquefor carbon-14 analysis using accelerator mass spectrometry is becomingincreasingly sensitive and inexpensive, suggesting that even thoughnuclear testing was conducted decades ago, enamel dating could be usedfor precise age determination “for a long time to come.”

Foundedin 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a mission to ensurenational security and to apply science and technology to the importantissues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managedby the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy'sNational Nuclear Security Administration.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "New Tooth Enamel Dating Technique Could Help Identify Disaster Victims." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050915003928.htm>.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (2005, September 15). New Tooth Enamel Dating Technique Could Help Identify Disaster Victims. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050915003928.htm
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "New Tooth Enamel Dating Technique Could Help Identify Disaster Victims." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050915003928.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins