How do environmental toxins affect your bones? Skeleton parts from the Smithsonian's physical anthropology collection. (Jennifer Renteria/Smithsonian)
How do environmental toxins affect your bones?
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Did you know that you look the way you do because of the environment you grew up in? Of course, the genes you inherited from your parents play a role in your appearance. You have genes for height, bone structure, hair, eyes or dimples. But scientists who study bones are finding that environment matters, too.
 
Physical anthropologists analyze human bones to learn more about human variation, about what makes us the same or different. Collections of bones in museums can provide important material for study. Modern techniques such as CT scanning and mass spectrometry reveal details of bones, such as their internal structure and chemical composition.
 
It turns out that environment, which can be everything from what you eat to what you breathe, affects the skeleton as it develops. Our skulls and bodies may get smaller, our teeth more brittle or our bones less durable if we are exposed to certain toxins. Looking back in time, anthropologists are diagnosing the range of toxins people have been exposed to and their possible effects on development, growth and health.
 
Toxins may come from natural sources, such as minerals in the water or molecules in the air. They are increasingly coming from human sources -- from the manufacture and use of products we bring into our lives.
 
What are scientists finding out about environmental impacts on bones? Find out more on Thursday, February 11, 2016, in a "Smithsonian Science How" live webcast on How Bones Reveal Environmental Health. It airs at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST on the Q?rius website. Physical Anthropologist Dr. Sabrina Sholts from the National Museum of Natural History will appear live to discuss and answer questions. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How can scientists look back in time?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (138)
  • alic-nar
    1/15/2016 - 08:36 a.m.

    this was weird and kinda cool but mostly weird

  • abbiew-nar
    1/15/2016 - 08:38 a.m.

    This article is kind of scary because if what we look like is affected on climate what will happen to kids after global warming takes affect? Anyways, scientist can look back in time sort of because they can just look in museums to see what the bones were like back then.

  • drewm-nar
    1/15/2016 - 08:38 a.m.

    They can not really look back in time but they can find things from the past like bones.

  • dianam-eva
    1/15/2016 - 08:51 a.m.

    That story is awesome and you can learn about what is good to your bones.

  • daud-eva
    1/15/2016 - 08:52 a.m.

    I think they affect our bones by wearing them down and making your bones brittle.

  • jovonna-eva
    1/15/2016 - 08:54 a.m.

    I found that our bones has something to do with the environment.

  • camdenm-eva
    1/15/2016 - 08:59 a.m.

    That's cool that that the environment you grow up in depends on the way you look.

  • jasmines-nar
    1/15/2016 - 09:53 a.m.

    Scientists can look back in time by studying things from the past.

  • isabellas-nar
    1/15/2016 - 09:56 a.m.

    Scientists are looking back in time by seeing all the things that someone has been exposed too.

  • mariaha-nar
    1/15/2016 - 09:56 a.m.

    Scientists look back in time by artifacts. Their from long eras ago. And the scientists find artifacts and put them together and make stories.

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