Around the age 7 sweep (2008), you were asked to participate in an ‘Every tooth tells a story’ project to look at levels of lead in the environment. The study was being carried out by the Institute of Child Health, part of University College London.
Over 3,000 of you sent your teeth for the study. Many of you sent more than one tooth and the study has now received over 4,000 teeth from you. This makes it an exceptionally successful collection of shed milk teeth in the UK and provides an amazing resource for research.
The teeth are being stored at the Institute of Child Health, University College London. They are stored securely and in serial number order in plastic zip wallets. They have been removed of any personal information so they cannot be linked to you.
Lead is a hazardous chemical in the environment which can affect children’s learning, development and behaviour. The government reduced the amount of lead in the environment by removing lead from petrol in the 1980s and taking steps to reduce lead in water in the 1990s. This means that environmental lead levels have fallen.
However, little remains known about lead exposure in young children. Lead is incorporated and stored in calcifying tissues such as bone and teeth. Recent scientific advances make it possible to assess lead levels from milk teeth.
By testing the teeth of children living in different parts of the country, we will find out if there are differences in the amount of tooth lead across the country, and also whether children are exposed to lead before and after birth. This information will tell us how well children are being protected through different government measures to control lead. It will also allow us to look at whether tooth lead levels affect children’s later development.
To find out more about lead and its health effects, visit the Health Protection website.
Researchers at the Institute of Child Health, University College London, have recently arranged for the first tests on a small number of your milk teeth to take place in a specialist laboratory in Australia. This will give us some important information about the amount of lead that today’s children are exposed to before and after birth. As these tests are relatively new, only a small number of teeth are being tested at first but more testing is planned if this is successful.
We will tell you more about what the study finds as the research develops.
Findings from the ‘Every tooth tells a story’ project should be out soon.