Understanding international crime trends: the legacy of preschool lead exposure

Environ Res. 2007 Jul;104(3):315-36. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2007.02.008. Epub 2007 Apr 23.


This study shows a very strong association between preschool blood lead and subsequent crime rate trends over several decades in the USA, Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Finland, Italy, West Germany, and New Zealand. The relationship is characterized by best-fit lags (highest R2 and t-value for blood lead) consistent with neurobehavioral damage in the first year of life and the peak age of offending for index crime, burglary, and violent crime. The impact of blood lead is also evident in age-specific arrest and incarceration trends. Regression analysis of average 1985-1994 murder rates across USA cities suggests that murder could be especially associated with more severe cases of childhood lead poisoning.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Behavior
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crime / trends*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure* / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure* / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Lead / blood*
  • Lead / toxicity
  • Lead Poisoning, Nervous System, Childhood* / blood
  • Lead Poisoning, Nervous System, Childhood* / epidemiology
  • Lead Poisoning, Nervous System, Childhood* / psychology
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Lead