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Research Links Lead Exposure, Criminal Activity
The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children's exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.
What makes Nevin's work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries.
"It is stunning how strong the association is," Nevin said in an interview. "Sixty-five to ninety percent or more of the substantial variation in violent crime in all these countries was explained by lead."
Originally posted by Byrd
I...dunno. The associated evidence looks moderately convincing, but I'm not so sure it has such a simple answer. Populations didn't stay the same during that time, nor did wealth distribution... and factors like job programs and Head Start (which was founded in 1965) that had a huge impact on the poor don't seem to have been taken into account.
Originally posted by Byrd
Some of the associated information is odd enough that I'd like to look into it further (glass as a major cause of lead poisoning??? Yes, I know about leaded glass, but glass is a fairly stable substance. This seems counterintuitive and needs to be looked at.)
Take action to prevent lead hazards from windows
Fact: Lead paint was used on millions of homes throughout the United States before it was banned for residential purposes by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1978. However, by then millions of windows coated with lead paint were in place. Today, about 91% of the San Francisco housing stock still has lead paint.
Lead Hazards from windows in San Francisco
Lead-contaminated household dust is a primary cause of childhood lead poisoning in the U.S. today, and one of the sources of lead dust is the friction caused by the opening and shutting of lead-painted windows.
Opening and closing of lead-painted windows may cause the paint to chip and peel. Over a period of time, abrasive actions may turn paint chips into powdery dust, which becomes a hazard because the lead is not “locked” into the paint. The lead dust is especially hazardous to young children if they ingest it, either by sucking or licking their finger(s) after touching the exposed paint and dust from a window.
In San Francisco between 2004 and 2006, investigation to the homes of children with lead poisoning and lead nuisance complaints shows that 44% of the inspected homes had lead paint hazards at the windows.
LEAD CRYSTAL AND YOUR HEALTH
However, questions are now being raised about the safety of crystal. Scientists have found that when crystal comes in contact with acidic beverages, some lead dissolves into the liquid. The amount depends on the lead content of the crystal, the type of beverage, and the length of time they are in contact with each other. However the amount of lead obtained from crystal is in general very small.
Studies show that acidic beverages such as port or wine will dissolve more lead from crystal than less acidic drinks like scotch or vodka. Acidic non-alcoholic beverages such as fruit juices and soft drinks also absorb lead. Generally, the longer a beverage sits inside a crystal container, the more lead is absorbed by the liquid.
However, the actual amount of lead released from crystal glasses over the course of a normal meal tends to be low. Tests show that the resulting lead levels in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are usually well below 200 parts per billion -- the maximum allowable lead concentration in Canadian beverages.
By contrast, beverages stored in crystal decanters can accumulate very high levels of lead. Scientists have found lead concentrations of up to 20 parts per million - 100 times higher than the Canadian limit - in wines kept for weeks or months in crystal containers. As a general rule, do not store any beverage in crystal decanters for extended periods of time. To inhibit lead from dissolving in the beverage, some manufacturers are now coating the interior of lead crystal containers.
Originally posted by Byrd
Interesting. I can see it as a factor, but not as a very large factor (as he proposes.)
Nevin says his data not only explain the decline in crime in the 1990s, but the rise in crime in the 1980s and other fluctuations going back a century. His data from multiple countries, which have different abortion rates, police strategies, demographics and economic conditions, indicate that lead is the only explanation that can account for international trends.
Because the countries phased out lead at different points, they provide a rigorous test: In each instance, the violent crime rate tracks lead poisoning levels two decades earlier.