26 August 2008

Poverty, Violence and Occam's Razor

This news is no surprise to anyone who reads the science page now and then. Sadly, that rarely includes politicians and the special interests that support them. Much of this could have been prevented if there was a social and political commitment to make decisions based on scientific evidence instead of back-and-forth bickering between liberals and conservatives over social services, taxes and individual responsibility.

After studying the effects of childhood lead exposure for nearly 30 years, a University of Cincinnati researcher has found a positive correlation to violent criminal behavior and a deterioration of brain cells.

"We started the study in 1979 and recruited women who were pregnant or living in areas of Cincinnati that have high incidents of lead poisoning such as Over- the-Rhine, the West End, Avondale and some parts of Price Hill,"

"I've been involved with these kids for three decades and they ask me 'Why can't I hold onto a job? Why can't I maintain a stable domestic relationship?'" Dietrich said. "The argument is over; it's important for society as a whole to clearly put lead on the table as the culprit for problem children in the inner city who have low academic achievement."

The members of the study also had MRIs taken of their brains. With these images, researchers found a loss of brain cells in the part of the brain that affects the central nervous system. The brain cells lost are associated with the part of the brain that controls impulsive behavior, aggression, judgment and emotional regulation...


Radarman said...

Hmmm. So lead paint is to blame for the fathers who think hanging out is more important than sitting with their children to see that homework gets done, even if they don't quite understand it? For mothers who let their children run unattended from the end of school until late at night? For churches that ignore the chaos around them and concentrate on music and "redemption"? Etc. Etc. Etc. Interesting

liz said...

radarman: too much lead consumption addling your brain cells?

(yes, it's that kind of day)

WestEnder said...

Radarman, I see your point but I caution against a knee-jerk emotional reaction. That is exactly what has prevented timely resolution of this problem.

As the article states, lead damages the brain cells that are used for judgment and emotional regulation. When those cells are damaged an individual cannot make good decisions.

Your attitude is no different than blaming a crack baby or baby with fetal alcohol syndrome for its brain dysfunction.

It should also be noted that no one is saying lead is the ONLY factor. This is why it is important to address the lead issue; once it is removed as a variable, other factors such as early pregnancy, family instability, etc. can be looked at as isolated variables.

Radarman said...

I don't disagree with the dangers of lead paint. I do know, though, that lead paint was in widespread use for decades in houses and businesses everywhere. God knows I have inhaled pounds of the stuff in trying to make old houses livable for my family, Liz. But I continue to function. After a fashion. And I'm not completely psychotic.

WestEnder said...

No, not completely, just a little. Strange, I haven't seen you at the meetings.