Downtown Cleveland

Professor Studies Connection Between Juvenile Delinquency and Lead Poisoning

There is longstanding knowledge that lead poisoning, especially in cases of lead exposure to young children, leads to permanent physical and mental damage. Certified renovators understand that this damage manifests in many lasting ways, such as reading and learning difficulties, speech problems, and behavioral issues. Now, Rob Fischer, the co-director at the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University, is exploring the ways in which lead poisoning, particularly through exposure to paint containing lead, is linked to juvenile delinquency.

Initial studies conducted by Professor Fischer through the center focused on determining the ratios of affected kindergarten students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Though findings showed about 25% of kindergarteners having had exposure to lead, in some cases the number of individuals affected by lead poisoning reached as high as 40% of observed students. Additionally, the research found there to be a distinct geographical correlation with one’s likelihood to be affected by lead poisoning, which holds impactful socioeconomic implications.

Fischer’s studies also concluded that there is a discernible difference between children affected by lead poisoning on the East and West Sides of Cleveland. Those attending school on the East Side of Cleveland are much more likely to have exposure to lead than children attending school on the West Side.

According a report from the Juvenile Division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, 2017 alone saw over 13,000 delinquency charges. Fischer’s research aims to show a connection between these charges and lead exposure, taking into account the considerable long-term impact on development for those poisoned by lead early on. An earlier study by Anna Aizer and Janet Currie at the National Bureau of Economic Research supports Fischer’s beliefs, linking lead exposure to both increased likelihood of suspension in youth and to criminal records in adulthood.

Fischer’s studies are particularly important because exposure to lead during childhood disproportionately affects minority children, especially African Americans, living in Cleveland. Children living in the poorest areas of Cleveland are most likely to be exposed to lead through lead in the paint of their homes and apartments. Though lead paint was banned in 1978, it is still in the walls and woodwork in many older buildings today.

As the collection of evidence connecting lead exposure to juvenile delinquency grows, it can be expected that Cleveland will see an implementation of higher standards for landlords and residential contractors. This could result in requiring the removal of lead-paint from properties before renting them out or potentially a Lead Safe Rental Registry, as advocated for by the Cleveland Lead Advocates for Lead Safe Housing coalition.

Read the full article here.