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Tinley Park High School ESRP 2018

An Examination Of The Heavy Metal Concentration In Primary And Permanent Molars From Pre-Industrial Societies


  • Students:
    • Dejon Chappel
    • Nicholas Davies
    • Sean Ford
    • Ashley Kennedy
    • Mark Ogarek
    • Jaydeep Pillai
    • Nathan Ryan
    • Kyle Wegner
  • Teachers:
    • James Birrell
  • Mentors:
    • Kevin Boyd (Lurie Children’s Hospital)
    • Chengjun Sun (Argonne National Laboratory, Advanced Photon Source)

Advanced Photon Source Sector 9: Spectroscopy Group

The environment the human species has experienced is responsible for most of the evolutionary pressures that have shaped our species. However, since the industrial revolution, the rapid diffusion and evolution of culture has contributed to a rapidly changing set of pressures that will contribute to our future evolution. The industrial revolution is the key to this epoch, and our environment and lifestyles since then have contributed to an environment laced with heavy metals.

Teeth can be used to estimate the environmental exposure of an organism to heavy metals.  In hard dental tissues such as tooth enamel, this mineral phase of the tooth is not typically continuously lost and replaced.  Hard dental tissues consist of the mineral hydroxyapatite, into which heavy metal atoms may be incorporated into the crystal lattice during development. Thus, the hard dental tissues provide a permanent record of the trace element environment during the lifetime of an organism.

The goal of this experiment is to determine the relative levels of heavy metal incorporation into the hard dental tissues from a primary and a permanent molar from pre-industrial specimens.  It is hoped that in this way, we can provide some clues as to the development, environment, and lifestyle of pre-industrial humans, and eventually determine how the development, lifestyle, and environment of humans has changed as our society has changed.

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