What toxins have you been exposed to? Your baby teeth may hold the answer.

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The full article by Rachel Cernansky was originally written for the Washington Post

Baby teeth may soon be worth a lot more than the sentimental value they offer nostalgic parents. It turns out that these teeth store a unique type of health record, with the potential to reveal everything that an individual has been exposed to, including environmental toxins such as lead and pesticides, and stress hormones produced by the baby in utero.

It may sound like science fiction, but it’s the key to much of Manish Arora’s work. An environmental epidemiologist and exposure biologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, Arora explains that teeth form rings as they grow — just as trees do, but daily instead of annually — and each ring contains information about exposures that occurred on the day it was formed. Using specialized equipment, he has developed ways to analyze what’s contained in those rings.

“I often describe [teeth],” he said, “as biologic hard drives.”

Arora’s work is part of an emerging field of study focused on the exposome, a term coined in 2005 to refer to the totality of health-affecting exposures that a person experiences.

Researchers say the studying of the exposome could dramatically alter how we assess health. Through a fingerprick of blood, for example, a doctor eventually may be able to analyze what an individual has been exposed to and use that information to help determine health risks linked to or caused by those exposures. By revealing exposures that occur during fetal development and throughout childhood, the baby teeth may provide the earliest and most extensive window into how environmental factors influence health.

Read more via the Washington Post
What toxins have you been exposed to? Your baby teeth may hold the answer.