Does lead poisoning lead to terrorism?

iStockphoto.com It’s well known that exposing kids to lead is bad. Scientific studies have shown that it shaves off IQ points and increases impulsivity. And more impulsivity can mean more crime because impulsive people act first and think later. In the United States, a number of studies have established a correlation between childhood lead exposure and sociopathic behavior ...

600629_070712_paint_05.jpg
600629_070712_paint_05.jpg

iStockphoto.com

It's well known that exposing kids to lead is bad. Scientific studies have shown that it shaves off IQ points and increases impulsivity. And more impulsivity can mean more crime because impulsive people act first and think later.

In the United States, a number of studies have established a correlation between childhood lead exposure and sociopathic behavior when children turn into teenagers and young adults. A 2001 study found that the murder rate in U.S. counties with high lead levels was four times the rate in counties with low lead levels, even after controlling for socioeconomic and environmental variables.

iStockphoto.com

It’s well known that exposing kids to lead is bad. Scientific studies have shown that it shaves off IQ points and increases impulsivity. And more impulsivity can mean more crime because impulsive people act first and think later.

In the United States, a number of studies have established a correlation between childhood lead exposure and sociopathic behavior when children turn into teenagers and young adults. A 2001 study found that the murder rate in U.S. counties with high lead levels was four times the rate in counties with low lead levels, even after controlling for socioeconomic and environmental variables.

Most recently, economist Rick Nevin has hypothesized a neurochemical theory that lead poisoning explains variations in violent crime. His research has found a decades-long correlation between lead poisoning and crimes rates in not just one, but nine, countries. Nevin even argues that lead abatement accounts for New York City’s famous crime drop during Rudy Giuliani’s tenure as mayor from 1994 to 2001.

The finding prompted blogger Kevin Drum to speculate that lead could lead to terrorism. In Pakistan, 80 percent of children have high levels of lead in their blood.

But, since when has terrorism been driven by impulsivity and low IQs? Terrorist cells spend weeks, months, even years, planning their violence, and many recent high-profile terrorist acts have been carried out by highly educated men.

Lead = terrorism? Methinks not.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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