Uranium: Teeth under the microscope

2012-12-22 16:24
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Johannesburg - Dentists in the Potchefstroom area will begin collecting teeth from donors to better understand uranium content in the local water supply, according to a media report on Saturday.

The collection of teeth from willing donors is part of a survey for the Cancer Association of South Africa that seeks to understand the extent of exposure of uranium in the area.

Study leader Dr Carl Albrecht said that exposure to uranium may cause cancer.

"Uranium can act as a hormone disrupter, mimicking the action of oestrogen at very low concentrations, which could possibly increase the cause of cancer and cognitive function," he told the Saturday Star.

Albrecht said that adult teeth, including extracted wisdom teeth, would be useful to study because they "trap" uranium.

Thirty teeth will come from Potchefstroom residents who have been living in the area for at least five years and have drunk only tap water.

The area's tap water may be exposed to uranium through seepage from nearby mine dumps and mine drainage.

For a control group, 30 teeth will also be taken from Ventersdorp.

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