Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Lead in teeth can tell a body's tale, study finds

Date:
July 31, 2014
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
Your teeth can tell stories about you, and not just that you always forget to floss. The discovery could help police solve cold cases, an investigator has said. For instance, if an unidentified decomposed body is found, testing the lead in the teeth could immediately help focus the investigation on a certain geographic area. That way, law enforcement can avoid wasting resources checking for missing persons in the wrong places.

Revealing information UF geology professor George Kamenov has published research that shows trace amounts of lead in modern and historical human teeth can give clues about where they came from.
Credit: Ray Carson/UF Photography

Your teeth can tell stories about you, and not just that you always forget to floss.

Related Articles


A study led by University of Florida geology researcher George D. Kamenov showed that trace amounts of lead in modern and historical human teeth can give clues about where they came from. The paper will be published in the August issue of Science of The Total Environment.

The discovery could help police solve cold cases, Kamenov said. For instance, if an unidentified decomposed body is found, testing the lead in the teeth could immediately help focus the investigation on a certain geographic area. That way, law enforcement can avoid wasting resources checking for missing persons in the wrong places.

"We can use this pollution signal to figure out where these people came from," he said.

Lead is composed of four variants, called isotopes. The amount of those isotopes fluctuates in different rocks, soils and ores -- and, therefore, regions of the world.

Mining and other pollution-causing activities release that lead into the environment, and it accumulates in children's bodies as they grow because kids inhale dust and ingest soil when they put their hands in their mouths.

Tooth enamel, which develops during childhood, locks in the lead signals and preserves them.

"When you grow up, you record the signal of the local environment," Kamenov said. "If you move somewhere else, your isotope will be distinct from the local population."

Even different teeth can reveal certain facts.

First molar enamel is finished forming by age 3, so it provides information about birth and toddler years. Incisor and canine enamel starts later and finishes around age 5, so it gives insight into early childhood. The third molar enamel does not start forming until age 8, so it indicates late childhood residences.

Lead analysis can also tell what time period a body is from.

Modern and historical teeth have different signals, according to the study. The natural composition of lead changed over the past century because of mining and the use of leaded gasoline, so there's a clear distinction between modern and historical human exposure.

Using that information, archaeologists can identify early European bodies in New World areas.

"You can go back in time, look at archaeological sites and try to reconstruct human migration," Kamenov said.

But modern American teeth are like no others in the world, according to the study. Whereas available data for areas such as South America overlap with Europe, American teeth can be identified anywhere due to usage of ores with distinct isotope signals in the United States.

"What's in the environment goes into your body," Kamenov said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. George D. Kamenov, Brian L. Gulson. The Pb isotopic record of historical to modern human lead exposure. Science of The Total Environment, 2014; 490: 861 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.05.085

Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Lead in teeth can tell a body's tale, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140731110946.htm>.
University of Florida. (2014, July 31). Lead in teeth can tell a body's tale, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140731110946.htm
University of Florida. "Lead in teeth can tell a body's tale, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140731110946.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) Need another reason to eat yogurt every day? Researchers now say it could reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
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