Why Is Lead And Crime Such News Today?

by Christopher Paul on January 4, 2013

Is it me or are everyone else’s memory fickle?

Today, my Twitter feed exploded (well, streamed very fast is more likely) with news from Mother Jones linking reduction of lead (and leaded gasoline) to a steady decrease in crime rates. When I saw this, I thought this was familiar news. Then I saw Jason Kottke post something about the article and I knew I had read about this before.

And I did.

As I searched around, I realized I read it from Wired way back in 2011 which cites the same data as the MJ article. Granted, the Wired piece is shorter so you can say that the Mother Jones article is certainly more longform and goes into greater detail. But detail or not, the headline is the same: lead (and lead gas) and crime rates have a correlation. And because scientists know children with higher lead exposures are more aggressive, it’s easy to say it’s pretty close to causation (though I wouldn’t go that far just yet).

But as interesting as this concept is, I can’t help but wonder how no one seemed to pick up on this when Wired published their post. I was sent to it from somewhere; I don’t read Wired’s website regularly so it’s not something I would have discovered on my own.

It makes me wonder why something like this is news today. It was news in June 2011. Hell, you could argue it was news in 2007 when much of this data was first published. Why do we have such short memories?

Maybe it’s the lead.

Previous post:

Next post: