Is lead poisoning behind some juvenile crime?

Lead is a common element but is found in old paints (including those once used on children's toys), soil, old piping, water, and the atmosphere from lead-containing vehicular fuels, even drinking vessels. At high dose it is lethal but also causes seemingly trivial symptoms such as headaches. However, in children lead can also lead to irreversible damage to the organs, the kidneys in particular, and the nervous system including the brain. Early detection to contaminated sources is important to prevent children coming to harm but exposure is not always apparent. The effects of high lead exposure amongst children can result in 'learning disabilities', behavioral problems, lowered intelligence, stunted growth, and hearing impairment.

Summer Miller of Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writing in the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry, points out that data from the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) shows that 6% of all children ages one to two years and 11% of African-American (non-Hispanic) children ages one to five years have blood lead levels in the toxic range in the area a lead poisoning.

Miller suggests that exposure to harmful quantities of lead may lead to juvenile delinquency. "Very small amounts of lead are associated with toxicity," she says. "There have been discrepancies amongst researchers in determining the levels indicating lead poisoning. Thus, it has been reported that levels as low as 10 per deciliter show enough lead exposure to diagnose lead poisoning."

Other studies suggest 45 micrograms per deciliter. She adds that public education regarding the ongoing problem of lead exposure is now needed to save young people from the potentially devastating effects of this toxic metal. " has a progressive effect over time and its symptoms are those experienced by most people, such as headaches and abdominal pain," says Miller. "Because these symptoms are so common, this allows detection to go unnoticed, hence the need for education regarding sources of lead exposure."

"Published research shows that lead exposure and criminality is linked to evidence of poorer intelligence, low communication skills, and behavioral problems, such as vandalism and bullying," Miller adds. Other studies have found delinquent juveniles to have raised concentration of lead in their bones compared to that in "non-delinquent" juveniles.

More information: "Lead poisoning: the epidemic hitting the US juvenile justice system" in Int. J. Liability and Scientific Enquiry, Vol. 5, pp.213-220.

Related Stories

Children more vulnerable to harmful effects of lead

date May 04, 2008

Contrary to prevailing assumptions, children are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead exposure at the age of 6 than they are in early childhood, according to a Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study ...

New health issues tied to low-level lead exposure

date Jul 17, 2012

Despite dramatic progress in reducing Americans' exposure to lead over the past 25 years, a growing body of research finds that children and adults still face health risks from even very low levels of the toxic metal in their ...

Children's lead poisoning drops

date May 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- In 2007, 416 children were reported to have elevated blood lead levels in Los Angeles County, a dramatic improvement from 10 years earlier, when fewer children were tested but 1,184 reports of children with ...

Recommended for you

Sexual assault circumstances differ for military men, women

date May 01, 2015

As the military struggles to combat sexual assault, surveys are uncovering stark differences between the attacks against active-duty female service members and those against active-duty men. The differences are forcing defense ...

The ER docs said 'stop smoking,' and they did

date May 01, 2015

An intervention in the emergency department designed to encourage tobacco cessation in smokers appears to be effective. Two and a half times more patients in the intervention group were tobacco-free three months after receiving ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.