The intersection of aggregate-level lead exposure and crime

Brian B. Boutwell, Erik J. Nelson, Brett Emo, Michael G. Vaughn, Mario Schootman, Richard Rosenfeld, Roger Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Childhood lead exposure has been associated with criminal behavior later in life. The current study aimed to analyze the association between elevated blood lead levels (n=59,645) and crime occurrence (n=90,433) across census tracts within St. Louis, Missouri. Design: Longitudinal ecological study. Setting: Saint Louis, Missouri. Exposure measure: Blood lead levels. Main outcome measure: Violent, Non-violent, and total crime at the census tract level. Results: Spatial statistical models were used to account for the spatial autocorrelation of the data. Greater lead exposure at the census-tract level was associated with increased violent, non-violent, and total crime. In addition, we examined whether non-additive effects existed in the data by testing for an interaction between lead exposure and concentrated disadvantage. Some evidence of a negative interaction emerged, however, it failed to reach traditional levels of statistical significance (supplementary models, however, revealed a similar negative interaction that was significant). Conclusions: More precise measurements of lead exposure in the aggregate, produced additional evidence that lead is a potent predictor of criminal outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this work and for Drs. Brett Emo, PhD and Roger D. Lewis, PhD, were through a grant by the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes , HUD LTS MOLHTO162-07 . Robert F. Weisberg, PhD, grant officer. The funding agency played no role in the collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data. Nor did they play a role in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript (or the decision to the submit the paper).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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