Is lead poisoning behind some juvenile crime?

February 11, 2013

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.

Explore further: New health issues tied to low-level lead exposure

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

New health issues tied to low-level lead exposure

July 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 ...

US lowers cutoff for lead poisoning in young kids

May 16, 2012
(AP) -- For the first time in 20 years, U.S. health officials have lowered the threshold for lead poisoning in young children.

Panel urges lower cutoff for child lead poisoning

January 4, 2012
(AP) -- For the first time in 20 years, a federal panel is urging the government to lower the threshold for lead poisoning in children.

US finds lead poisoning from Ayurvedic medicines

August 23, 2012
US health researchers said Thursday that they have documented lead poisoning risks among pregnant women who took Ayurvedic medicine and issued a new warning on the safety of traditional pills.

Recommended for you

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

0 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.