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Research: Blame It On The Lead?

The most recent issue of Mother Jones includes a fascinating article about the decline in violent crime that has accompanied the removal of lead from gasoline, paint, and other materials

Now, Chicago Magazine's Whet Moser brings the issue closer to home, citing the connections between lead and student achievement, and linking to research suggesting that the problem of lead poisoning, while little discussed any more, may still be playing a role in students' lives (Lead, Violence, and Society). 

He cites research from UIC showing that roughly 3/4 of students studied in the mid-2000s -- those now in high school -- had blood lead levels "high enough to be considered poisoned, according to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

The costs of removing lead from soil and other places it remains are high, according to Moser, but the returns are much higher.


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My son sent me the Mother Jones link, this weekend. Among scientists and environmental health researchers, this has never been off our radar for a minute, but we're looked on as tree-huggers when we write grant proposal after proposal for remediation and treatment programs. Enough research is already in, without the crime connection or the test score gap, that this is hurting kids badly. Timmy has fallen in the well, Lassie. Get help!

I've been looking for a place to bring it up on the (many) education sites I follow, but any discussions of the condition of urban children had already turned too toxic. Notice that even you approached the issue in terms of deflecting the "blame" for the condition/performance of low-income kids, their communities, their teachers and schools.

Look at the conversation on Cody's blog, "Revealing Debate over the Education Reform Dichotomy". He quoted a comment that, "Choices do have to be made. Do you chose to promote public education that will sacrifice all the children in trying to save the bottom 20% or do you sacrifice the bottom 20% to save the top 80%?"

All I could bring myself to post was this:
"At some point, the environmental factors that impact low-income kids' development do become biological factors, which extend all the way to physical harm. We urgently have to protect those children at risk, and we absolutely can't just declare them damaged (or defective) goods and abandon them to the for-profit prison/educational contract industry."

See what I'm afraid of? What if all we get is more and deeper rejection of these kids? I posted the Mother Jones link in a conversation with a scientific racist (they prefer "race realist" now) who comments on your blog. If he opened it, it only fueled his preexisting inclinations to write them off.

Moser is the first to think it important enough to write about, anyway, and you're a very close second. Well done, no kidding. Could you help rouse Chicago to launch systematic lead remediation and removal programs, do you think? Even if the damned test scores don't rise in the very short term, these children's bodies are under unrelenting assault.

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