Mounting evidence links lead's toxic effects to criminal behavior

Feb 05, 2014

When crime rates drop, politicians like to give themselves pats on the back for being "tough on crime." But a new theory explaining why violence has declined across the country since the 1990s is gaining credence, and it has nothing to do with the criminal justice system. An article in Chemical & Engineering News details the mounting data that suggests taking lead out of gas and paint has played a critical role.

Lauren K. Wolf, associate editor at C&EN, explains that violent crimes had reached an all-time high in the U.S. in the early '90s. But by the end of the decade, the homicide rate had plummeted by more than 40 percent. Multiple theories were batted around to explain the drop, from the mundane to the controversial. Was it due to an increase in police presence? Did the legalization of abortion lead to fewer unwanted babies who would grow into crime-prone adults? Recently, a new argument implicating lead exposure has gained prominence.

The article points out that lead, the once-ubiquitous heavy metal, spewed from car exhaust and coated building walls until it was banned from gasoline and paint in the early 1970s. Babies born post-ban were exposed to far less lead. Twenty years on, those babies became young adults who committed fewer crimes than their predecessors. Like an intricate puzzle, pieces of evidence from across disciplines—epidemiology, neurology, sociology, medicine and environmental science—are now interlocking and creating a fascinating portrait of how lead affects the mind, including lowering IQ, and causing attention problems and antisocial tendencies.

Explore further: Murderers who killed during robberies more likely to return to crime when paroled

More information: "The Crimes of Lead" cen.acs.org/articles/92/i5/Crimes-Lead.html

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User comments : 4

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jahbless
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 05, 2014
Lol, they talk about "mounting evidence" and yet only describe a single correlation.
Maggnus
4 / 5 (4) Feb 05, 2014
Well actually, they point to
mounting data that suggests taking lead out of gas and paint has played a critical role.
including
pieces of evidence from across disciplines—epidemiology, neurology, sociology, medicine and environmental science
which suggests that
lead affects the mind, including lowering IQ, and causing attention problems and antisocial tendencies
.

So, in order to discuss their findings, one should review the "pieces of evidence" by looking into the literature and studies produced by "disciplines" including "epidemiology, neurology, sociology, etc" upon which their findings were based.

In point of fact, jahbless, they do not talk about "a single correlation".
Tachyon8491
3.3 / 5 (4) Feb 06, 2014
A pity that not a scrap of the "mounting evidence" and "pieces of evidence" is presented here.. This then becomes more of a per autoritatem argument for the thesis.
Nestle
5 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2014
Correlation doesn't imply causation, but Roman Caesars (who consumed lotta wine from lead grails and used the water from their lead taps) were often pretty freaks.