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Could lead exposure increase violent crime?

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Because of the dangers of lead exposure, Texas requires that blood tests of children under the age of 15 examine how much lead is in their bodies. Healthcare providers report these blood lead tests to the Texas Child Lead Registry. Many people are aware that lead poisoning can cause serious physical health issues like developmental disabilities, stunted growth, gastrointestinal symptoms and anemia. What most people might not know is that it has been linked to increases in the risk of violent crime.

Children attacking teachers

Randolph Byers and Elizabeth Lord, two healthcare professionals, were the first to notice the connection between lead exposure and violence. They observed that two of the youths that they had treated for lead exposure were attacking their teachers. Wanting to know if there was a connection, they examined more cases and found that 19 out of 20 patients were displaying cognitive and behavioral problems. They brought attention to the issue in 1943, but it took the U.S. four more decades to do deeper research.

Limitations of the research

It’s important to keep in mind that the research is retrospective because it would be unethical to set up a controlled experiment. Thus, researchers must rely on incidents that have happened. However, a lot of the analyses indicate there’s a correlation between lead exposure and aggressive and violent behavior.

Researchers look at incidents from different countries, not just the U.S. Even in other countries, there is a strong connection between lead exposure and violent crime.

How lead exposure compares to other risk factors

Many people know that growing up in poverty increases the risk of crime. However, data analysts are finding that lead exposure is the single most significant contributor to violent behavior.

Keeping yourself safe from lead exposure is important to protect your health and well-being. Regular blood tests can help catch exposure to lead early on before it has a chance to do more damage.