University Study Finds That African-American Children’s Exposure to Lead Can Result in a Greater Propensity to Commit Violent Crime When They Are Adults

A recent article in USA Today reported research by Kim Dietrich, professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Professor Dietrich’s research included data on the level of lead in the blood of babies born in 1979. Over the next seven years the children had annual blood tests to check the level of lead in their bloodstreams. Children who lived in poor neighborhoods where the housing stock was older were often exposed to lead-based paints.

Professor Dietrich then tracked down 250 individuals who had participated in the original blood tests. He found that there was a direct correlation between the level of lead in the blood of the children at ages 0 to 7 and their likelihood of having been arrested when they reached adulthood. He found a particularly high correlation between lead in the blood of children and cases of violent crime when these children grew up.

Previous studies have shown that lead in the blood can impair judgment and cognitive functions as well as produce erratic behavior.

The USA Today article did not mention race when discussing Professor Dietrich’s study. But Professor Dietrich told JBHE that 95 percent of the subjects in the study were African Americans. He stated to JBHE that it is his belief that “early exposure to lead is indeed a factor in the higher crime rates among African Americans.”