The first study to follow lead-exposed children from before birth into adulthood has shown that even relatively low levels of lead permanently damage the brain and are linked to higher numbers of arrests, particularly for violent crime.
Previous studies linking lead to such problems have used indirect measures of lead and criminality, and critics have argued that socioeconomic and other factors may be responsible for the observed effects.
But by measuring blood levels of lead before birth and during the first seven years of life and then correlating the levels with arrest records and brain size, Cincinnati researchers have produced the strongest evidence yet that lead plays a major role in crime.
This just makes me angry. It’s not like the health risks of lead were unknown—they were well understood decades before the compound was phased out of gasoline and paints. Still, politics got in the way of common sense: and society as a whole suffered, and not just over the short term.
It makes me wonder what other kinds of long-term risks we’re creating right now—risks that are well understood, entirely preventable, but simply tolerated.