Children who are exposed to lead before the age of seven are significantly more likely to be arrested for violent crimes as adults, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and published in the journal PLoS Medicine.
Researchers used data from 250 women whose levels of lead had been measured while they were pregnant between 1979 and 1984, as well as lead measurements taken of the children up to the age of seven. These measurements were then compared with the Hamilton County, Ohio, adult arrest records of those children.
The researchers found that the higher a person’s blood levels at any time in childhood, the more likely they were to have been arrested as adults.
“The strongest association was with violent criminal activity: murder, rape, domestic violence, assault, robbery and possession of weapons,” researcher Kim N. Dietrich said.
Lead blood levels varied between four and 37 micrograms per decaliter, with each five microgram per decaliter increase at the age of six leading to a 50 percent rise in the chance of arrest as an adult.
The U.S. government recommends that blood levels of lead remain below 10 micrograms per decaliter. Approximately 310,000 children are believed to have levels above this threshold, however, while health professionals warn that even lower levels can be dangerous.
Lead is a known neurotoxin that can disrupt the development of children’s brains.
In a recent study conducted by researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, people with high levels of lead exposure during childhood were found to have brains an average of 1.2 percent smaller than the average for the general population.
Sources for this story include: latimes.com.