Monday, January 7, 2013

Lead and Crime

Galena, the main ore of lead.  Click for photo credit.
Check out this recent article by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones about the link between dropping crime rates and lead exposure.  Drum makes the case that reduction of lead pollution is a key reason for the decline.  The article is, in part, based on the work of noted lead researcher Howard Mielke.

Mielke is the Rachel Carson of lead.  He has been front and center in making the case that low levels of lead cause subtle cognitive and behavioral problems.  His work has demonstrated, in part, that areas with high lead levels tend to have higher crime rates.  Since I started following his work in the 1980's his work has been demonized by the lead industry.  It reminds me how Rachel Carson was called a "hysterical woman" by the chemical industry after she published Silent Spring.

The article is worth a read and it is an interesting approach.  Lead clearly has an impact on behavior and Mielke and others believe that the main reason behind falling crime rates is the reduction of lead around us.

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