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America's Real Criminal Element: Lead

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posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 11:44 AM
Here's a really interesting one (well, at least I think so), that I thought would interest many of my fellow ATSers, though I did not really know what forum it best belonged to.


Basically, this article sums up extensive research which shows heavy correlation between exposure to levels of lead (Pb) and levels of criminality.

The graphic representation is amazingly convincing in and of itself, but if that was not enough ... and it probably wasn't from a scientific point of view. (Correlation does not equate to causation right?)

A team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati has been following a group of 300 children for more than 30 years and recently performed a series of MRI scans that highlighted the neurological differences between subjects who had high and low exposure to lead during early childhood.

This study found that:

high exposure to lead during childhood was linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain associated with aggression control as well as what psychologists call "executive functions": emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility.

Fascinating... it may also prove that some people may actually be born evil. (But that is probably for another thread!)

And, of course, the title is snazzy, but, as the cause is environmental, borders do not matter, and lead was used everywhere so this is by no means concentrated in the U.S.A.

Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well. When I spoke to Nevin about this, I asked him if he had ever found a country that didn't fit the theory. "No," he replied. "Not one."

The author does add a semblance of conspiracy to the mix:

But if all of this solves one mystery, it shines a high-powered klieg light on another: Why has the lead/crime connection been almost completely ignored in the criminology community?

His take:

My own sense is that interest groups probably play a crucial role: Political conservatives want to blame the social upheaval of the '60s for the rise in crime that followed. Police unions have reasons for crediting its decline to an increase in the number of cops. Prison guards like the idea that increased incarceration is the answer. Drug warriors want the story to be about drug policy. If the actual answer turns out to be lead poisoning, they all lose a big pillar of support for their pet issue. And while lead abatement could be big business for contractors and builders, for some reason their trade groups have never taken it seriously.

There we have it, big money interest trumps well-being once again.


the Billmeister

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 12:05 PM
So lead makes you a criminal and it was all covered up because money talks.

Wouldn't doubt it. Stranger things have happend.

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 12:14 PM
That is an interesting and realistic correlation.

In my younger days I dated a girl from "the projects" who had nieces and nephews that had been declared partially disabled as a result of having eaten lead-based paint chips. They collect SSI to this day.

My point is that there are populations in our society who either get completely neglected, or are last in line to be advised of certain dangers/have the dangers corrected. In other words, the "rest of us" already had knowledge of the dangers of lead paint, yet the "projects" - state owned housing facilities - were still exposing kids for a decade or more thereafter.

So is it the paint, or the low-income housing environment, or both?

Shame, really.
edit on 7-1-2013 by capod2t because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 12:15 PM
No waayyyy!!!!! Are u saying that the rise in crime wasnt due to drugs, hippies, and videogames and such?! That means Fox news and CNN have been lying all these years.... wait a sec...... yeah, i guess i believe it, hehehe....

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 12:16 PM
reply to post by otie1

The data shows that exposure to high levels of lead as a child (through leaded gasoline and paint) affect the development of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for

"executive functions": emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility

So not only is there a correlation with increased criminality, but teenage pregnancy, IQ levels, and even the occurrence of ADHD.

The conspiracy angle is purely the authors opinion... though, as you say, it definitely follows a pattern seen many times before. If nothing else, the problem has been, let's say "overlooked" for far too long!

the Billmeister

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 12:27 PM
reply to post by capod2t

Excellent point.

The article does point to this as well:

In New Orleans, lead levels can vary dramatically from one neighborhood to the next—and the poorest neighborhoods tend to be the worst hit.

And more dramatically:

So why has it been so hard to get it taken seriously?

There are several reasons. One of them was put bluntly by Herbert Needleman, one of the pioneers of research into the effect of lead on behavior. A few years ago, a reporter from the Baltimore City Paper asked him why so little progress had been made recently on combating the lead-poisoning problem. "Number one," he said without hesitation, "it's a black problem." But it turns out that this is an outdated idea. Although it's true that lead poisoning affects low-income neighborhoods disproportionately, it affects plenty of middle-class and rich neighborhoods as well. "It's not just a poor-inner-city-kid problem anymore," Nevin says. "I know people who have moved into gentrified neighborhoods and immediately renovate everything. And they create huge hazards for their kids."

As you eloquently pointed out, solutions always seem to arrive more slowly to low-income areas, but the problem really does appear to be environmental more than economic, as the international studies show.

For example:

...murder rates have always been higher in big cities than in towns and small cities. We're so used to this that it seems unsurprising, but Nevin points out that it might actually have a surprising explanation—because big cities have lots of cars in a small area, they also had high densities of atmospheric lead during the postwar era. But as lead levels in gasoline decreased, the differences between big and small cities largely went away. And guess what? The difference in murder rates went away too. Today, homicide rates are similar in cities of all sizes. It may be that violent crime isn't an inevitable consequence of being a big city after all.

the Billmeister

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 01:03 PM
Doing some more searching on the topic, I found this article from october 2007 in "U.S.A. Today"...

I would have thought that this would have garnered more attention... perhaps the Kevin Drum's conspiracy angle is on mark.
Lead exposure, crime seem to correlate

the Billmeister
edit on 7-1-2013 by Billmeister because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 01:17 PM
Interesting OP.

As a metallurgist friend of mine once said..."Lead is the Metal of the Future." In applications such as stained glass and car batteries (99% recycled lead), lead is not such an issue. Lead exposure effects children under 6 significantly more than once you are older. Much of lead picked up into the bloodstream is through ingestion. To date, there is no correlation to lead in drinking water and blood levels. So gas, paint, etc. were not good. However, lead came out of gas in the seventies.

All these studies are difficult. The original studies done at North Carolina that correlated lead exposure to low IQ was exposed as fraud to the US Office of Scientific Integrity. And, we don't have that office anymore. Probably saw carbon regulation coming and ran, letting the EPA be the whipping boy.

Lead is often found in combination with arsenic and mercury, so the EPA toxicological data is compounded by not being able to single out the true effects of elemental lead.

Lead is toxic. And, it is the oldest metal with a long history. We don't have that type of history on many new plastics and volatile organic compounds. The lead scarce is similar to the copper and selenium scares in the '70's. Now they are in multivitamins, and so is lead through contamination.

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 02:25 PM
You make it seem as if nothing is being done. As a matter of course (I have to assume) both of my toddlers had blood tests to check for lead. Looks like they try to limit the amount in a baby's blood.

What that article(at least the quoted parts) made me wonder is if you could inject stem cells in someone's
pre-frontal cortex and create an abundance of grey matter there to facilitate great impulse control and control over one's emotions.

Would we be a nation of Vulcans?

posted on Jan, 7 2013 @ 02:39 PM

Originally posted by Mayson
You make it seem as if nothing is being done.

Sorry, I took it for granted that we all know that lead has been removed from gasoline in the industrialized world, and that lead also no longer exists in paint. However, the removal of lead-filled paint remains a huge issue and is the main solution discussed in the article's second page. These solutions are a few decades off in developing nations as well as the ex-Soviet republics, and the bell curves reflect this as well.

What that article(at least the quoted parts) made me wonder is if you could inject stem cells in someone's
pre-frontal cortex and create an abundance of grey matter there to facilitate great impulse control and control over one's emotions.

Would we be a nation of Vulcans?

Funny, but actually quite interesting to ponder... could this be the solution to world peace?

the Billmeister

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