Lead poisoning and violent crime


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Kevin Drum wrote a good article in Mother Jones about how you can do more to combat crime to reducing environmental lead than anything else.   Drawing in research by a HUD consultant named Rick Nevin and a Harvard graduate student named Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, he showed there is a strong between lead in the atmosphere and lead found in the blood of pre-school children, and the crime rates 23 years later.   This is true of different neighborhoods, different cities and different countries.

If there is some other cause, it would have to be some other factor common to all the different cities and nations.  The implication  is that all the crackdowns on crime, denials of due process and prison construction have had less impact on the crime rate than banning leaded gasoline.

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Despite the ban on leaded gasoline, there is still a lot of lead in the environment and, as Drum said, there would be a big benefit to cleaning it up—even though we might have to wait 23 years to see it.


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Click on America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead to read his article.  Then look at the charts below for evidence of the connection between crime and environmental lead.

The next two charts show correlations between lead in the blood of pre-school children in nine countries and overall crime rates 23 years later.


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Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The next chart shows correlations between early childhood blood levels in the United States and Canada and rates of aggravated assault 23 years later.


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The next chart shows correlation between atmospheric lead in American cities and aggravated assault rates 23 years later.

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Click to enlarge

The last chart shows correlations between early childhood lead in seven countries and burglary rates 23 years later.

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Click to enlarge

Scientists are often wary of journalists.  Sometimes they have good reason.   But other times it takes a good journalist such as Kevin Drum to keep important scientific findings from languishing in obscurity.   And it really helps when you have a magazine such as Mother Jones that uses graphics and charts effectively to present statistical information.

Click on Government Gets the Lead Out, Crime Plummets for more data.  [Added 3/16/13]

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One Response to “Lead poisoning and violent crime”

  1. Elemental Crime: Pb(CH2CH3)4 and the Cycle of Violence | Humane Exposures Blog Says:

    […] Lead poisoning and violent crime […]


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