Pediatricians have been telling us for decades that lead and kids don't mix. Childhood exposure to the element has been linked to mental, behavioral and other developmental disorders. Now a new study has found even more evidence of the negative health effects of lead as it links exposure to a rise in the rates of aggravated assault as kids grow up.
The study, compiled by Howard Mielke, a specialist in environment and health with Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Sammy Zahran, an epidemiologist and the co-director of the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University, was published April 10 in the journal Environment International.
The study looked at health and crime data for six U.S. cities: Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, San Diego, Atlanta and New Orleans. According to the researchers, rising levels of exposure to airborne lead dust lead to spikes in the rates of aggravated assault as exposed children got older.
And I know what you're thinking — areas where children are exposed to lead are more often than not poorer communities where violent assault might be statistically more likely to occur. But the researchers controlled for other possible causes for the crime spike such as community and household income, education, policing effort and incarceration rates.
Still, they found a strong link between childhood exposure to lead and a future spike in aggravated assault. The study claims that 90 percent of the variation in aggravated assault cases across evaluated cities was explained by the amount of lead dust to which children were exposed — 90 percent!
The study lends further credence to the growing body of scientific evidence linking lead exposure to permanent damage to regions of the brain that control mood regulation, will power and judgment.