Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Plumbism in New Orleans?

You don't have to be a racist to wonder if there's something wrong with the mental hardware in New Orleans. (For one thing, the political corruption and lack of investment in levees has been going since the days when New Orleans was run by whites.) Plumbism (lead poisoning) might be an explanation. New Orleans was one of the main centers of oil refining back when gasoline was still leaded. As a result:

Over 50 percent (and perhaps even 70 percent) of children living in the inner city of New Orleans and Philadelphia have blood lead levels above the current guideline of 10 micrograms per deciliter [*Note #2]. In contrast, in the concrete "jungle" of Manhattan, where very little of the soil is exposed and almost all apartments and housing contain lead-based paints, only between 5 and 7 percent of children under the age of 6 have been reported to have blood-lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter or higher.
This might also explain the differences between reactions to 911 and Katrina.

But wait, there's more:

Meanwhile, ecologists and social theorists are adding fuel to the fire. In a recent examination of data from the 1900s, researchers found a correlation between the amount of lead released into the environment from auto exhaust and paint, and violent crime, including rape, robbery, assault, and murder. The study was published in the May 2000 issue of Environmental Research, and was conducted by Rick Nevin, vice president of ICF Consulting (a housing and environmental health issues firm in Fairfax, Virginia) under contract to HUD.

According to the study, variations in leaded gasoline sales from 1941 to 1986 correlate with roughly 90% of the fluctuations in violent crime rates from 1960 to 1998. Variations in predicted childhood lead exposure from the use of lead paint between 1879 and 1940 strongly correlate with murder rate variations between 1900 and 1960, possibly explaining about 70% of the change, the study found. A lag effect of 18-23 years--basically the time it takes an exposed child to grow up--was documented, depending on the specific crime.

I'm a bit nervous about continuing. I might start sounding like the anti-mercury activists.


Blogger Vader said...

I doubt the lead is as poisonous as the culture.

And I would hate to hear "The lead made me do it" offered as an excuse for anti-social behavior.

11:25 AM  

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