This weekend on CNN, we expect the network to air a report on the "Tooth Fairy" project -- an attempt by New Jersey-based activist Joseph Mangano to demonstrate a link between Strontium 90 (Sr-90), nuclear plants and childhood cancer by analyzing the levels of Sr-90 found in baby teeth.
But despite the fact that there isn't any scientific evidence to back up his claims, they keep resurfacing like that proverbial bad penny.
The nuclear industry has been debunking this story for years now, most recently in New Jersey, where Mangano testified before the the New Jersey Commission on Radiation Protection in connection with license extension application that is expected to be filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant on New Jersey's eastern shore.
NEI Executive Vice President Angie Howard was interviewed for the segment, where she explained that Sr-90, which has a half-life of 28 years, exists in the environment primarily due to aboveground nuclear weapons testing once undertaken by the U.S. and other countries. Further, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been monitoring for Sr-90 and other isotopes for years -- even before nuclear power plants began operating, in order to establish baseline data against which future radiation levels could be compared.
Consistently, the NRC has found no appreciable changes from background radiation near nuclear plants. In all, eight state departments of health have investigated Mangano's claims, and all eight states (Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Michigan) refused to validate them.
Here's what the New Jersey Commission on Radiation Protection reported to then-Gov. Jim McGreevey about one of Mangano's studies back in February 2004:
The Commission is of the opinion that "Radioactive Strontium-90 in Baby Teeth of New Jersey Children and the Link with Cancer: A Special Report," is a flawed report, with substantial errors in methodology and invalid statistics. As a result, any information gathered through this project would not stand up to the scrutiny of the scientific community. There is also no evidence to support the allegation that the State of New Jersey has a problem with the release of Sr-90 into the environment from nuclear generating plants: more than 30 years of environmental monitoring data refute this.
For more background on the "Tooth Fairy" Project, click here for a summary of the issue, and here for a copy of the NEI fact sheet.