KSNF/KODE — A new study is linking childhood and earlier lead exposure to later criminal behavior. Researchers from George Washington University found that kids with higher levels of the toxic metal were more likely to resort to crime as adults.
The research team said they found the correlation both to children exposed in the womb as well as during their childhood. Writing in the journal, PLOS Global Public Health, scientists evaluated 17 previous studies to reach their conclusion.
This latest review by researchers from George Washington University suggests that an individual exposed to lead in the womb or in early childhood may have a higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior as an adult. However, they say there is a need for more individual-level data to make the connection more clear.
It is known that lead exposure can cause a multitude of health issues, both physical and mental. In 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) said lead exposure can have serious consequences for the health of children. According to the WHO — at high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system, causing coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with intellectual disability and behavioral disorders.
“Children do not absorb or metabolize lead in the same way as adults and are far more susceptible to the negative impacts of lead exposure due to a hyper-permeable blood-brain barrier and rapidly developing organ systems,” said Dr. Maria Jose Talayero Schettino, one of the study’s main authors. She added, “In conjunction with the available biological evidence, this review demonstrates that an excess risk for criminal behavior in adulthood exists when an individual is exposed to lead in utero or within childhood.”