Hugh Pickens writes "Even low levels of lead can cause brain damage, increasing the likelihood of behavioral and cognitive traits such as impulsivity, aggressiveness, and low IQ that are strongly linked with criminal behavior. The NYTimes has a story on how the phasing out of leaded gasoline starting with the Clean Air Act in 1973 may have led to a 56% drop in violent crime in the US in the 1990s. An economics professor at Amherst College, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, discovered the connection and wrote a paper comparing the reduction of lead from gasoline between states (PDF) and the reduction of violent crime. She constructed a table linking crime rates in every state to childhood lead exposure in that state 20 or 30 years earlier. If lead poisoning is a factor in the development of criminal behavior, then countries that didn't switch to unleaded fuel until the 1980s, like Britain and Australia, should soon see a dip in crime as the last lead-damaged children outgrow their most violent years."
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