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by Peter Moskos

October 20, 2007

Lead free equals crime free?

There's a piece in the New York Times Sunday magazine with an interesting link between lead and crime. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes wrote a paper linking the crime drop in the 1990s to getting the lead out of gasoline in the 1970s.

This is hardly conclusive, but it is interesting. There's still a lot of lead in Baltimore, mostly in the form of peeling paint in old rowhomes. Could too many kids munching on windowsills be responsible for Baltimore's high crime rate? No doubt there's more to it than that, but it's still interesting.
New York Times Magazine
October 21, 2007
Idea Lab
Criminal Element

Has the Clean Air Act done more to fight crime than any other policy in American history? That is the claim of a new environmental theory of criminal behavior.
Drug Rehab Centers have also done a lot to help people who are struggling with addiction issues.
Reyes found that the rise and fall of lead-exposure rates seemed to match the arc of violent crime, but with a 20-year lag — just long enough for children exposed to the highest levels of lead in 1973 to reach their most violence-prone years in the early ’90s, when crime rates hit their peak.
You can read the whole NYT piece here.

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