Saturday, May 28, 2011

Environmental Causes to Lower Crime Rates

One of the recession's biggest surprises is the continued drop in violent crime. Via Drum, it seems likely that one major reason is that children no longer suffer from lead poisoning:

....There may also be a medical reason for the decline in crime. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline....A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future.

While not the only reason suggested, it is quite telling. The larger lesson is that environmental regulations that supposedly cause business money almost always pay for themselves in the long run. And as Republicans want to tear down each and every one of these regulations to return to the Gilded Age, I for one expect this period of time to be a sort of high point in protecting our children from environmental hazards. Future generations of Americans may suffer from the hellish hazards of lead poisoning as workers do in China today (global capitalism--it's all benefits!!!) and as Chris Sellers has explored in his superb work on the rise of environmental health science and the suffering of white lead victims in the Progressive Era, Hazards of the Job.