Get The Lead Out: Less Lead Equals Less Violent Crime


What if a terrible childhood, drug abuse, poverty, or criminal behavior is a result of chemical exposure? As absurd as it sounds, many scientists believe that violence in modern society is heavily connected to exposure to lead.

In ancient Rome, lead was used gratuitously in everything from lipstick, to hair dye, to wine sweetener. Some scholars believing that rampant lead poising had quite a bit to do with the fall of the empire. Although it was fairly well established in 1896 that rubbing the stuff all over your face wasn’t good for you, the practice continued for quite some time in cosmetics, paint, window linings, and many toys. Cosmetics companies have gone under the microscope for putting lead in their lipsticks as recently as 2007, according to MSN. Lead use in paint and gasoline has exposed millions of Americans to harmful amounts of lead, and the results hurt more than the afflicted.

How Does Lead Hurt You?

Although it was once thought that small amounts of lead and lead exposure were harmless, this is far from the case. Lead poisoning can effect just about every part of a human, from nervous system to skin. Children are the most at risk for lead ingestion inhaled from household dust or swallowed from chipped paint. There are an estimated 38 million homes in the US with lead paint in them, and as the paint is subjected to wear and tear it is frequently swallowed by children. Symptoms can range from hyperactivity to a coma. A study in Cincinnati revealed that juvenile delinquents were four times more likely to have high levels of lead in their bones. Furthermore, a review of 19 studies concluded that no other factors could feasibly explain the correlation.

What Has/ Is Being Done?

Reducing lead levels is particularly difficult, as there is no way to really make lead “go away.” Although environmental remediation companies like Sevenson Environmental can seal heavily contaminated places off from exposure, it’s more difficult in the home and daily life. The best way to deal with lead paint is to thoroughly paint over it, as removing it often creates dangerous dust and chips.

Could it Have Made Such an Impact?

In studies of developed nations, data reveals violent crimes peak about 20 years after lead pollution peaks. This theory holds true for both large and small cities. Another study took 15 other variables into account and still discovered that homicides were increased four-fold in American counties that had the highest lead pollution rates. A similar study revealed that lead levels played a key factor in aggravated assault rates. A study as far back as 1943 found that babies who chewed the lead paint from their cribs, even after being treated for acute poisoning, were generally disposed toward aggression and violence.

Although there have been many instances in history where we have carelessly exposed ourselves to harmful chemicals, lead seems to be the only one with a violently deadly domino effect.

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