Lead Causes Violence, Lack of Pirates Causes Global Warming

I have seen so many theories for the cause of the significant reduction in violent crime in the US since 1993 that I am starting to lose track, let me try to recall just a few from memory:

  • 3 Strikes, Mandatory Minimums, and other “Tough on Crime” Measures  enacted in the 1980’s
  • Stricter federal enforcement of gun control initiatives including the Brady Law 
  • Long-term results of social programs started in the mid-1960s
  • Improved overall economic conditions that began in the early 1990s

But the cause reported on the NewsHour tonight (in a story on leaded toys or “Toxic Toys” from China) is perhaps the most ludicrous: environmental lead (in particular in the form of leaded gasoline).  I am not making this up, a study release from what I now formally considered a prestigious source, the University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Lead In The Environment Causes, 2005) directly attributes this drop to efforts in the US to reduce exposure to lead.  These efforts were primarily through: phasing out leaded gasoline, lead paint, and lead plumbing.  Now this meme has apparently wriggled its way out of the crackpot journals of UPMC and into the mainstream news thanks to the NewsHour. 

Lead Paint and Violence?This theory is just slightly more specious than the farcical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Pro-Pirate argument (that the rise of global temperatures, hurricanes, and tornadoes is inversely proportional to the number of pirates).  Hmmmm, I guess these geniuses at UPMC couldn’t imagine that poorer and less educated people, i.e. those already at a significantly higher risk of becoming violent offenders to begin with, are more likely to live in older houses in which lead is still a problem.  Or they also couldn’t somehow wrap their heads around the fact that countries with lead levels significantly higher than the US (many countries still sell leaded gas in fact) still have much lower levels of violent crime than the US.    

Viva La Pasta y Los PiratesSo unless the PBS NewsHour wants to start reporting on the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its pro-Pirate initiatives, they should not give credence to such equally meretricious arguments.

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