The Relationship between Atmospheric Lead Emissions and Aggressive Crime: An Ecological Study

Environmental Health 2016:15 (BioMed Central)

21 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2016

See all articles by Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor

Macquarie University - Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Miriam Forbes

Macquarie University

Brian Opeskin

University of Technology Sydney

Nick Parr

Macquarie University

Bruce P. Lanphear

University of British Columbia (UBC) - BC Children's Hospital and Child & Family Research Institute; Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Faculty of Health Sciences

Date Written: February 7, 2016

Abstract

Background Many populations have been exposed to environmental lead from paint, petrol, and mining and smelting operations. Lead is toxic to humans and there is emerging evidence linking childhood exposure with later life antisocial behaviors, including delinquency and crime. This study tested the hypothesis that childhood lead exposure in select Australian populations is related to subsequent aggressive criminal behaviors.

Methods We conducted regression analyses at suburb, state and national levels using multiple analytic methods and data sources. At the suburb-level, we examined assault rates as a function of air lead concentrations 15-24 years earlier, reflecting the ubiquitous age-related peak in criminal activity. Mixed model analyses were conducted with and without socio-demographic covariates. The incidence of fraud was compared for discriminant validity. State and national analyses were conducted for convergent validity, utilizing deaths by assault as a function of petrol lead emissions.

Results Suburb-level mixed model analyses showed air lead concentrations accounted for 29.8% of the variance in assault rates 21 years later, after adjusting for socio-demographic covariates. State level analyses produced comparable results. Lead petrol emissions in the two most populous states accounted for 34.6% and 32.6% of the variance in death by assault rates 18 years later.

Conclusions The strong positive relationship between childhood lead exposure and subsequent rates of aggressive crime has important implications for public health globally. Measures need to be taken to ameliorate exposure to lead and other environmental contaminants with known neurodevelopmental consequences.

Keywords: aggressive crime, assault, atmospheric lead, childhood, death, environmental pollution, lead exposure, leaded petrol

Suggested Citation

Taylor, Mark and Forbes, Miriam and Opeskin, Brian and Parr, Nick and Lanphear, Bruce P., The Relationship between Atmospheric Lead Emissions and Aggressive Crime: An Ecological Study (February 7, 2016). Environmental Health 2016:15 (BioMed Central). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2732478

Mark Taylor

Macquarie University - Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences ( email )

Sydney
Australia

Miriam Forbes

Macquarie University ( email )

North Ryde
Sydney, New South Wales 2109
Australia

Brian Opeskin (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney ( email )

Faculty of Law
University of Technology Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales 2007
Australia
+61-2-95149670 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.uts.edu.au/staff/brian.opeskin

Nick Parr

Macquarie University ( email )

North Ryde
Sydney, New South Wales 2109
Australia

Bruce P. Lanphear

University of British Columbia (UBC) - BC Children's Hospital and Child & Family Research Institute ( email )

University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Faculty of Health Sciences ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada

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