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Lead Causes Violent Crime, Research Says


History of Lead Use

Year
Event
1887US medical authorities diagnose childhood lead poisoning
1904Child lead poisoning linked to lead-based paints
1909France, Belgium and Austria ban white-lead interior paint
1914Pediatric lead-paint poisoning death from eating crib paint is described
1921National Lead Company admits lead is a poison
1922League of Nations bans white-lead interior paint; US declines to adopt
1943Report concludes eating lead paint chips causes physical and
neurological disorders, behavior, learning and intelligence problems in
children
1971Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act passed
1978Lead-based house paint banned

Lead in Paint

In more modern times, the durability of lead made it an excellent paint additive, but the sweetness made it tempting to young children. Childhood lead poisoning was linked to lead-based paints in 1904. Several European countries banned the use of interior lead-based paints in 1909. At one time baby cribs were painted with lead-based paint, which resulted in infant illness and death. In 1922, the League of Nations banned lead-based paint but the United States declined to adopt this rule. In 1943, a report concluded that children eating lead paint chips could suffer from neurological disorders including behavior, learning, and intelligence problems. Finally, in 1971, lead-based house paint was phased out in the United States with the passage of the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act.

A new story calls into question the connection between lead and violent crime.
In a recent story published in Mother Jones, journalist Kevin Drum argues that the presence of lead is a driving force behind violent crimes’ rise and fall.
“Ten years ago it was an intriguing idea, but the evidence wasn’t all that solid,” Drum told The Huffington Post. “Now the evidence is really strong. Criminologists should be taking it seriously.”
He writes that research over the last decade provides compelling evidence that, as the presence of lead increases, so does crime; as it decreases, crime follows suit.
Much of the research hinges on the use of leaded gasoline, which became prominent in the 40s then gradually lessened in the mid-1970s.
From Mother Jones:
2000 paper … concluded that if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
Other research shows that states in which leaded gasoline use fell more quickly, crime also decreased more rapidly compared to states with continued use of leaded gasoline. The same trend was found in other countries — those with higher lead concentrations had higher rates of crime and vice versa.
Exposure to lead has also been shown to damage brain function.
“Even moderately high levels of lead exposure are associated with aggressivity, impulsivity, ADHD, and lower IQ,” Drum writes. ”And right there, you’ve practically defined the profile of a violent young offender.”  MORE

Chicago Slums and the Long Shadow of Lead Paint

One of the most fascinating questions in American sociology, political science, and public policy is the substantial decline in violent crime in America has been falling for two decades after a near-peak in 1991; the homicide rate hit a 50-year low last year despite the recession. There are a lot of interesting theories, none that (as far as I’ve read) is considered dominant. In November, Llewellyn Hinks-Jones wrote a compelling piece for the Atlantic about crime rates and the declining price of cocaine; there’s the evergreen broken-windows theory; Steven Levitt’s abortion theory (PDF); increasing incarceration rates; the destruction of massive public-housing complexes; improved trauma care; and many more. I was reminded of another one when reading up on public housing yesterday, thanks to a brief aside in Beryl Satter’s masterful Family Properties (emphasis mine):
The “peril to life and safety of the inhabitants” of slum buildings was often of a gruesome sort. Residents were injured on poorly lit stairways or ones with broken banisters. They were knocked out by falling plaster. They were scalded by the escaping steam of malfunctioning radiators. They perished in fires in buildings where fire escapes had collapsed from neglect. Their infants’ limbs were gnawed by rats. Each year approximately twenty-five children died from eating lead-filled paint chips. Others survived lead poisoning but were left mentally disabled.
Satter’s numbers come from a Chicago Daily News report from 1963. To put that in context, between 16 and 46 young Chicagoans died from accidents each year between 2002 and 2006, the leading cause of death in the 1-14 age group. In a 1962 Trib report, a board of health poison control pilot study found 35 deaths from 1959 to 1961: “Most of the victims were from 1 to 5 years old and came from rundown slum area buildings….” 465 cases were treated at County Hospital in those two years, and another 65 suffered severe brain damage.  MORE


LEAD POISONING PREVENTION 1994:
A GUIDE FOR LEGISLATORS

Short URL: http://www.newsnet14.com/?p=117258

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