Tuesday, June 3, 2008
We often consider the long term effects of environmental hazards on our physical health and that of our planet. But we know little in reality in terms of the social implications of how such hazards effect mental health and invariably human behavior. One recent study speaks clearly to this issue.
According to a recent study, childhood exposure to lead greatly increases the risk of arrest for violent crime in adulthood. The study looked at blood level of 250 people from before birth through their seventh year. The data was collected between 1979 and 1991 with researchers recently looking at the criminal arrest records of those subjects. The results clearly proved that high lead levels at any point are in fact a predictor of arrests for violent crime later in life. Interestingly enough previous studies have also linked exposure to tobacco smoke before birth as another predictor for violent behavior. Can we impact rates of violence in society by phasing out certain toxins?
Lead damages the nervous system when ingested or inhaled. It is present throughout the environment because of its widespread use in the past in paint, solder for water pipes, and gasoline. In 1978, 13.5 million US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl ( the current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blood lead level of concern). The current average of US blood lead level is 2 μg/dl). Lead paint and solder were later banned in 1978 and then in 1986, respectively, by the US federal government. By 1996 leaded gasoline was finally phased out. By 2002, only 310,000 US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl. However, children exposed to lower levels of lead than this—through ingesting flakes or dust residues of old lead paint, for example— have shown to have poor intellectual development and behavioral problems including aggression.
This study is particularly alarming with this year's recent reports of lead in literally millions of toys manufactured in China. With a generation of kids exposed to unsafe levels of lead thanks to cheap products, careless business practices, and poor regulation - what does that mean for their lives and our ours ? Be safe, get your kids tested for lead and make smart consumer choices in buying lead free products and toys (all of which can be easily researched and even purchased online).
(Source: PLOS Medical Journal, Enviroblog)