Lead Dust Exposure Linked to Violence

A new study reveals that childhood exposure to lead dust is linked to violence. The research pointed out issues with exposure to leaded gasoline and acts of violence up to 20 years after the exposure.

According to the new findings, which are published in the journal Environment International and written by toxicologist Howard W. Mielke, childhood exposure to lead dust is associated with long-lasting physical and behavioral effects, said Science Daily. Lead dust, says Mielke, has been connected to aggravated assaults two decades after exposure. Mielke, a research professor at the Department of Pharmacology at the Tulane University School of Medicine, collaborated with Sammy Zahran, a demographer at the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University.

According to the researchers, vehicles that used leaded gasoline—best known for its air contamination—have led to increases in aggravated assaults in urban areas, said Science Daily.

The study reviewed lead releases in Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New Orleans, Louisiana; and San Diego, California from 1950 to 1985, said Science Daily. Increases in airborne lead dust exposure seen during this time frame were attributed to leaded gasoline, wrote Science Daily; correlative spikes were seen in aggravated assault rates about 20 years later, after exposed children were grown.

After controlling for other potential causes, including community and household income, education, policing efforts, and incarceration rates, Mielke and Zahran revealed that for every 1% increase in tonnage of environmental lead released 22 years prior, the present aggravated assault rate increased by 0.46%, said Science Daily.

“Children are extremely sensitive to lead dust, and lead exposure has latent neuroanatomical effects that severely impact future societal behavior and welfare,” says Mielke. “Up to 90% of the variation in aggravated assault across the cities is explained by the amount of lead dust released 22 years earlier,” Mielke added, said Science Daily. Tons of lead dust were released in the years from 1950 to 1985 in urban areas by vehicles that ran on gasoline, said Science Daily. Also, the improper handling of lead-based paint contributed to lead contamination.

As we’ve long written, exposure to lead in children and unborn children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system. The developing brain is of particular concern over negative influences known to have long-lasting effects that can continue well into puberty and beyond. Once poisoned, no organ system is immune.

Children with lead poisoning may experience irritability, sleeplessness or excess lethargy, poor appetite, headaches, abdominal pain with or without vomiting—generally without diarrhea—and constipation, and changes in activity level. A child with lead toxicity can be iron deficient and pale because of anemia and can be either hyperactive or lethargic. In adults there may be motor problems and an increase in depressive disorders, aggressive behavior, and other maladaptive affective disorders, as well as problems with sexual performance, impotence and infertility, and increased fecal wastage and sleep disorders. Lead poisoning can also result in oversleeping or difficulty falling asleep.

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