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This summer’s flurry of concern about lead in Ontario drinking water gets extra power from a growing body of research linking preschool blood lead and subsequent crime rates. Rick Nevin, for example, has tracked blood lead levels and violent crime over several decades in the USA, Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Finland, Italy, West Germany, and New Zealand, and “suggests that murder could be especially associated with more severe cases of childhood lead poisoning”. In his view, removing lead from gasoline (and from incinerator emissions) was a huge public health success.

Pensive child

In his most recent article, Nevin argues that lead-safe window replacement in older housing would save the US more than $67 billion. Now that lead has been banned from gasoline, lead paint in older houses is the main exposure source, and the lead can be released (in dust) every time windows are opened or closed. He calculates that fixing paint and installing new windows in old homes would yield huge financial benefits AND go far to reduce Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, special education, crime and juvenile delinquency. In addition, such a window replacement effort would reduce peak demand for electricity, carbon emissions from power plants, and associated long-term costs of climate change.

Other researchers supporting a strong link between childhood lead exposure and crime include Jessica Wolpaw Reyes and Roger Masters.

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