Lead poisoning responsible for crime?

Discussion in 'The Red Room' started by Order2Chaos, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. Order2Chaos

    Order2Chaos Ultimate... Immortal Administrator

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    It seems hard to believe, but if the statistics are indeed as reported, they make a very compelling case that the addition and removal of lead from the atmosphere and soil are largely responsible for the increases and decreases of crime in the 20th century. Surprising stuff, but apparently fairly thoroughly researched.

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

    Excerpt (from the middle of the article)

    Fascinating analysis. The author's recommendation at the end is that we spend $20 billion a year for 10 years on lead decontamination and I can't say as it sounds like a waste of money, at least compared to most things the government does.
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  2. Scott Hamilton Robert E Ron Paul Lee

    Scott Hamilton Robert E Ron Paul Lee Straight Awesome

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    No, no, no. Abortion caused the crime decrease.

    I read it in Freakanomics.
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  3. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    Certainly plausible. It's been suggested that the insanity of the latter Roman emperors, and the attenuation of the royal blood lines in, for example, Spain, were the result of lead poisoning (drinking wine out of pewter cups). Look up the origins of the term "blue bloods" someday.
  4. 14thDoctor

    14thDoctor Current mood:

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    I had a Sociology prof a couple years ago that subscribed to this theory. Apparently hair samples from mass murderers and the like tend to show higher levels of heavy metal contamination.

    We had a pretty well-publicized case in Edmonton a few years ago where a guy that worked in a scrapyard killed his wife. Turned out he'd been not wearing his mask at work because it was too hot, and inhaling all the metals in the air fucked up his brain.
  5. Forbin

    Forbin Do you feel fluffy, punk?

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    Also, Rome's famously advanced system of public water distribution used lead pipes.
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  6. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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    As I suspected, Apostle ate the lead paint chips in his childhood home.
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  7. Scott Hamilton Robert E Ron Paul Lee

    Scott Hamilton Robert E Ron Paul Lee Straight Awesome

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    As I suspected, you don't read. :)
  8. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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    I read it, interesting article. I read your response, I pictured you eating a paint chip salad.
  9. Scott Hamilton Robert E Ron Paul Lee

    Scott Hamilton Robert E Ron Paul Lee Straight Awesome

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    Every time I read your responses, I remember how worried I was last fall when we all thought you had killed yourself.

    I'm glad we were wrong. What happened?
  10. gul

    gul Revolting Beer Drinker Administrator Formerly Important

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    There are many reasons to complete our lead clean-up, this seems to be a very good one to add to the list. Thanks for posting O2C, very interesting theory and strong corroborating evidence.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
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  11. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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    Had some shit happen, took off for a while (from here and from life) traveled some, took it easy for a while. Got arrested, went to jail, got out, went back again, got out, that was fun though. Wasn't the first time arrested, first time I spent more than a few hours in jail though.

    I wouldn't kill myself, it's idiotic to something like that. And most importantly it would deprive the world of me.
  12. Scott Hamilton Robert E Ron Paul Lee

    Scott Hamilton Robert E Ron Paul Lee Straight Awesome

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    What did you get arrested for?
  13. ed629

    ed629 Morally Inept Banned

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    This time, driving on a suspended license. And thank you, for saying you're glad I'm not dead. :D
  14. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed

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    Correlation is not necessarily causation, but this IS very interesting.
  15. Ramen

    Ramen Banned

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    Damn. Pretty convincing.
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  16. enlisted person

    enlisted person Black Swan

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    Lead poisoning cures a lot of crime too.
    [​IMG]
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  17. Liet

    Liet Dr. of Horribleness, Ph.D.

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    The article describes a whole lot more than mere correlation. In particular, environmental lead contamination increased and decreased quite differently in various times and places and the correlation exists universally across those differences, there's also a whole lot of demonstrated correlation at the level of individuals and blood levels of lead, there are several plausible mechanisms offered for how lead contamination actually affects individuals, and other proposed causal factors for the historical waxing and waning of violent crime over the last 100 years don't come close to holding up to scrutiny. From a public health perspective you can't reasonably expect a stronger case.
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  18. Ramen

    Ramen Banned

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    General Motors invented leaded gasoline.

    The government bails out General Motors 80 years later.

    Ergo, Obama retroactively helped to develop the real life equivalent of the Pax gas that was central to the plot of Serenity.

    Fucking Obama. Again. :rolleyes:
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  19. Tuckerfan

    Tuckerfan BMF Staff Member Moderator

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    This theory has been kicking around for years, and while nobody's come up with conclusive proof, the sensible thing to do would be to clean up the lead. (Which is why we won't see it.)

    BTW, there are countries which still use leaded gas: Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar/Burma, North Korea, Algeria, and Yemen. Perhaps you've heard of them?
  20. 14thDoctor

    14thDoctor Current mood:

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    You'll never get "conclusive proof" when some folks have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. :shrug:
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  21. frontline

    frontline Hedonistic Glutton Staff Member Moderator

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    Wow, this is fascinating. It makes a lot of sense if you look at it.
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  22. Order2Chaos

    Order2Chaos Ultimate... Immortal Administrator

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    This is pretty damn strong correlation - there are no counterexamples when remaining soil led is accounted for, and it fits better than any other curve.
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  23. Tuckerfan

    Tuckerfan BMF Staff Member Moderator

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    Well, the kind of experiments needed for conclusive proof were outlawed some decades ago in Geneva.

    However, ample evidence exists that lead is bad for humans, so getting as much of it out of the environment as possible should be a no-brainer. But, we'll hear people screaming about the government violating their rights by banning lead, or how lead is "essential" for something, or that individuals should be smart enough on their own to know better than to mess with lead, and that corporations, which want to remain profitable, will take it upon themselves to clean everything up, etc., etc.
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  24. Asyncritus

    Asyncritus Expert on everything

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    Exactly. "Correlation is not necessarily causation" when you have a limited amount of data. But when you have enough correlation, you have established a pretty solid causation link.

    Nevertheless, it is not direct causation. It would appear that lead is a contributing factor, but it is obvious that lead in the environment, in and of itself, does not cause a person to commit crimes. Lots of people who were exposed to the worst amounts of lead did not become criminals. I myself am from the time period the article says had the highest levels, and am neither a violent person nor prone to stealing, raping, or other such behavior.

    It may well be that lead acts as an anti-inhibitor, or that it increases aggressivity, or some such thing. That would mean that those who are disposed to crime in general but might not be as prone to actually doing it because of fear of the consequences are somewhat more inclined to actually do it. Nevertheless, their general disposition would be the primary cause of their criminality, not lead. Alcohol, also, acts very much as an anti-inhibitor, but alcohol in itself does not force people to commit crimes, either.

    My concern at this point is that lack of understanding of the difference between a contributing factor and a sufficient cause could well lead to some very questionable judgments in the near future. "Your honor, we have shown conclusively that my client was exposed to lead in the paint of his nursery. We therefore ask to jury to recognize that he is not guilty of the 16 rape-murders he committed over a period of five years, because of factors beyond his control."

    I do not think that is entirely hyperbole, with the modern tendency to think that "nothing is my fault."

  25. Volpone

    Volpone Zombie Hunter

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    Hmmm...

    TLDR, but my first impulse is "No. It is from 'Mother Jones,' so it is biased hyperbolic garbage." But from scanning the people who have responded and their responses I may have to concede that even a blind pig finds an acorn once in awhile.
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  26. Volpone

    Volpone Zombie Hunter

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    OK. Read it. I'd have a second drink with this guy at a cocktail party.
  27. Liet

    Liet Dr. of Horribleness, Ph.D.

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    You'd have a second drink with any guy who lets you blow him in the hope that he'd tickle your prostate later, and you buy lead paint on eBay so you can drink it straight from the can.
  28. Volpone

    Volpone Zombie Hunter

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    I've never clicked a "View Post" link from Liet and thought "Hmm...Maybe I should reconsider having him on 'ignore.'" :marathon:
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  29. Tuckerfan

    Tuckerfan BMF Staff Member Moderator

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    Lead has a variety of impacts on developing children, one of which, based on the data compiled by the article, is a greater tendency towards violence. Another impact is a lowering of IQ. Not saying lead exposure has made you stupid, only that the danger posed by lead isn't restricted to just causing a percentage of the population to be more inclined to violence.
  30. garamet

    garamet "The whole world is watching."

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    And lowering of IQ is accompanied by learning difficulties which, along with the other symptoms mentioned, makes it that much more difficult for these children to do well in school.

    Poor school performance means a high dropout rate which, combined with poverty and lack of the availability of nonskilled jobs, is a recipe for crime.

    The reasons for the legislation removing lead from the environment stemmed from the obvious correlation between lead and lowered IQs.