A new study adds to evidence strongly implicating high lead levels as a risk factor for criminality.
Herbert Needleman et al. conducted a case-control study of 194 delinquents between the ages of 12 and 18, and 146 non-delinquent controls. The researchers controlled for a variety of socioeconomic factors including parent education and occupation, family structure, race, and neighborhood crime rate.
Measuring the children's bone lead using K-line X-ray fluorescence in order to determine cumulative lead exposure, the researchers found that after adjusting for socioeconomic variables, "adjudicated delinquents were four times more likely to have bone lead concentrations greater than 25 parts per million than controls."
They conclude, "Elevated body lead burdens, measured by bone lead concentrations, are associated with elevated risk for adjudicated delinquency."
The new findings are consistent with research reported several years ago by Needleman et al. (see related article, Crime Times, 2000, Vol. 6, No. 3, Page 2). At that time, the researchers evaluated 216 delinquents and 201 non- delinquent youths and found that convicted juveniles were nearly twice as likely as control subjects to have high bone-lead levels.
"Bone lead levels in adjudicated delinquents: a case control study," Herbert L. Needleman, Christine McFarland, Roberta B. Ness, Stephen E. Fienberg, and Michael J. Tobin, Neurotoxicology and Teratology, Vol. 24, No. 6, November-December 2002, 711-17. Address: Herbert Needleman, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Keystone Building, Suite 310, 3520 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.