-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Urban areas contaminated
decades ago by airborne lead dust now face an increased incidence
of aggravated assault, according to a new study.
The surge in violence is linked to exposure to the lead dust
emitted from older vehicles that ran on leaded gasoline, according
to the researchers, who say improper handling of lead-based paint
could have played a role as well.
"Children are extremely sensitive to lead dust, and lead exposure has latent neuroanatomical effects that severely impact future societal behavior and welfare," said study co-author Howard Mielke, a research professor in the pharmacology department at the Tulane University School of Medicine, in a Tulane news release.
The researchers compared the amount of lead released from 1950
to 1985 in Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans
and San Diego.
Exposure to lead dust in the air surged during that time period
because of the use of leaded gasoline, the study found. Two decades
later, rates of aggravated assault in those cities increased as
well. Exposure to lead dust had negative effects on children's
behavior as adults, according to the researchers, who said the
association held true even after they took other factors into
consideration, such as household income and education.
The current rate of aggravated assault rose by almost one-half
of a percentage point for every 1 percent increase in tonnages of
environmental lead that was released more than two decades earlier,
the study found.
"Up to 90 percent of the variation in aggravated assault across the cities is explained by the amount of lead dust released 22 years earlier," Mielke said in the release.
The study is published online, ahead of print publication in the
August issue of the journal
While the study found an association between lead contamination
and future violence, it did not prove a cause-and-effect
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides more
lead in dust.
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