Study Argues Early Exposure To Lead May be Factor In Juvenile Crime

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A new study published in the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry explores an unexpected factor as a possible contributor to juvenile delinquency: early childhood exposure to lead.

According to the study, early exposure to high lead levels can result in an array of developmental problems, from behavioral issues to lowered intelligence to hearing impairment.

“Very small amounts of lead are associated with toxicity,” Summer Miller, a researcher from the Southern University Law Center, is quoted in a press release. “It has been reported that levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter show enough lead exposure to diagnose lead poisoning.”

She states that lead poisoning has a “progressive effect over time,” and since symptoms of toxicity include typical ailments like chest pains and headaches, high exposure detections generally go unnoticed. As a result, greater education regarding toxic metals and their potential effects on the nervous systems of children are necessary, she believes.

“Published research shows that lead exposure and criminality is linked to evidence of poorer intelligence, low communication skills, and behavioral problems, such as vandalism and bullying,” she stated.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2010 indicates that more than 12 million children in the United States had blood-lead levels more than a threshold closely “associated with measurable reductions in IQ,” with African-American youth reportedly three times likelier to have elevated levels of lead in their bloodstreams than Caucasian children.

Photo by Abby Lanes |

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