Thursday, October 25, 2007

Criminals, the Clean Air Act, and Cognition

Slashdot points to a New York Times article addressing a possible link between the decrease in violent crimes in the 1990s and the Clean Air Act. This link has been investigated in a recent paper by Amherst College professor Jessica Wolpaw Reyes in her paper "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime." The Times article discusses Reyes findings:
After moving out of an old townhouse in Boston when her first child was born in 2000, Reyes started looking into the effects of lead poisoning. She learned that even low levels of lead can cause brain damage that makes children less intelligent and, in some cases, more impulsive and aggressive. She also discovered that the main source of lead in the air and water had not been paint but rather leaded gasoline — until it was phased out in the 1970s and ’80s by the Clean Air Act, which took blood levels of lead for all Americans down to a fraction of what they had been. “Putting the two together,” she says, “it seemed that this big change in people’s exposure to lead might have led to some big changes in behavior.

In other news, violence is up among the 5-12 year old suburban child demographic.

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