The patient: Julie, a single parent from Newtown, CT
Why she came to see me: She was concerned that her 3-year old daughter was losing her baby teeth prematurely. Additionally, her dentist told her that the child’s teeth appeared to be extremely soft and malformed. When Julie came in and we spoke in my office, I asked her why she was sitting so stiffly, hardly turning her head on her neck. She told me that a week ago, she had gotten out of a “halo device” (a metal brace that sits on the shoulders and extends up into a ring around the head, secured with pins into the skull). She hadn’t been in an accident, but had consulted with the orthopedic department at Yale for persistent neck pain. She was told that the bones in her neck were “turning to Styrofoam” and that the halo device would help keep the vertebrae from collapsing while they tried to figure out what was going on. They had been subjecting her to thousands of dollars of tests and consults and still had no idea what was going on. The halo device was removed after they felt that no further improvement would be experienced by leaving it in place any longer.
How I evaluated her: I went through the pile of medical records that they had dutifully produced and explained to her that sometimes the experts miss the obvious. It is well known that ingesting heavy metal minerals can displace calcium in the body, causing the degenerative changes in bones that Julie was experiencing. Most of these metals are also excreted into the individual’s hair and can be detected in a sample. I explained that a rather primitive but ironclad test used in physical chemistry called spectrophotometry could provide a solution.
We sent a sample of her hair gathered from the nape of her neck to a specialty laboratory where it was burned in front of a prism that separated the light into distinct bands of differing frequencies. Elements in the hair have specific frequencies and so their presence and quantity in her hair and thus in her body can be assessed. (The cost of the hair mineral analysis and the isotopic fractionation was less than $300.)
The results showed that her levels of uranium were over 20 times threshold. I told her to hold this in complete confidence and had her collect a sample of her water at home—she had a well and this was the most probable source. We had the sample analyzed by a water testing laboratory requesting an “isotopic fractionation,” which would identify the source as either naturally occurring uranium ore (known as “pitchblende,”) or illegally dumped “depleted uranium,” material where the radioactive isotopes had been substantially extracted. Fortunately, the fractionation was consistent with pitchblende.
How we addressed the problem: We know that removing the source of the ongoing contamination and providing high levels of calcium/magnesium via supplementation would over time allow the uranium to be displaced and eliminated by the body. Unfortunately, the cost of the water filtration system required for Julie’s home was over $20,000. Her contractor focused on remediating her well water while Julie and I concentrated on displacing the uranium.
The patient’s progress: Over the next two years I watched Julie’s condition improve—her neck become less painful, the x-rays of her neck showed improved bone density—and her daughter formed more normal adult teeth. She was finally able to sell her home and has since moved out West, where she told me she is on a Municipal water supply!