Metals as mutagens.
A number of metals are mutagenic in bacteria or phage. These include compounds of arsenic, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, platinum, and selenium. Compounds containing aluminum, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and tellium have been shown to induce chromosomal aberrations or abnormal cell divisions in animal or plant cells. Genetic evidence suggests that arsenic, chromium, and molybdenum compounds may influence the accuracy of DNA repair processes in microorganisms.
PMID: 415523 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Effects of carcinogenic metals on gene expression.
Department of Biology and Chemistry, University of Bremen, Germany.
Six metals and/or their compounds have been recognized as carcinogens: arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt and nickel. With the exception of arsenic, the main rote of exposure is inhalation and the main target organ is the lung. Arsenic is exceptional because it also produces tumors of skin and lung after oral uptake. With the exception of hexavalent chromium, carcinogenic metals are weak mutagens, if at all, and their mechanisms of carcinogenicity are still far from clear. A general feature of arsenic, cadmium, cobalt and nickel is their property to enhance the mutagenicity and carcinogenicity of directly acting genotoxic agents. These properties can be interpreted in terms of the ability of these metals to inhibit the repair of damaged DNA. However, because carcinogenic metals cause tumor development in experimental animals even under exclusion of further carcinogens, other mechanisms have to be envisaged, too. Evidence will be discussed that carcinogenic metal compounds alter patterns of gene expression leading to stimulated cell proliferation, either by activation of early genes (proto-oncogenes) or by interference with genes downregulating cell growth. Special reference will be devoted to the effects of cadmium and arsenic on gene expression, which have been studied extensively. Possible implications for occupational safety and health will be discussed.
PMID: 12052642 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
DENTAL AMALGAM MERCURY SYNDROME ............. www.amalgam.org DAMS, Inc.; P.O. Box 7249 ;Minneapolis, MN 55407-0249; local contact: see page 2
Cognitive and Behavioral Effects Linked to Toxic Metal Exposure and Resulting Metabolic Imbalances, including Learning Disabilities, ADD, Violent Prone and Sociopathic Behavior, Juvenile Delinquency, Criminality, and Mass Murder
1.Currently, 50% of U.S. pregnancies result in birth defects, neurological conditions such as ADD, dyslexia, autism, schizophrenia, or other learning disabilities; mood disorders, other developmental disorders; or chronically unhealthy children according to a recent report of the National Academy of Sciences. (1)
2. Peer-reviewed medical studies have documented that the majority of such conditions are caused by exposure to toxic substances, with the most common being the toxic metals: mercury, lead, arsenic, nickel, cadmium, copper, antimony, and aluminum. (2,4,8-12) Pesticide and organochlorine or organophosphate exposures can also cause such effects(3).
3. Much of the developmental effects of mercury(and other toxic metals) are due to prenatal and neonatal exposures damage to the developing endocrine(hormonal) system. (12)
4. Prenatal and neonatal toxic metal exposure as well as chronic exposures to mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, nickel, and aluminum have been documented in medical publications and medical texts to cause common and widespread neurological and psychological effects including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, social deficits, other mood disorders, schizophrenia, anorexia, cognitive impairments, ADHD, autism, seizures, etc. (9,11)
5. Exposure to toxic metals causes ADHD, dyslexia, autism, and other neurological and immune conditions as a result of their neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and endocrine disrupting effects, as well as by causing deficiencies and imbalances in essential minerals and essential fatty acids; blocking essential enzymatic processes such as those necessary for digestion and processing of milk casein, wheat gluten, amino acids, vitamin B-6 and B-12; and causing "leaky gut" and poor nutrient absorption(2,4,8-12). These enzymatic blockages and metabolic disorders prevent processing of necessary minerals and nutrients and result in neurotoxic metabolites in the blood. (2,4)
6. Metals toxicity and metabolic imbalances are major factors in behavioral disorders and problems of children- including violence, sociopathic behavior, juvenile delinquency, and criminality(2,5,6)..
7. A hair element analysis of 28 recent mass murderers or serial killers found that all had patterns of metals toxicity and mineral imbalances typical of violent prone/sociopathic behavior(5,6).
8. Metals detoxification and nutritional treatment that deals with the essential mineral and essential fatty acid imbalances result in significant improvements in most of these conditions, including violent and sociopathic behavior. (2,4,5,7,10-12)
9. Common exposures in children have been documented for mercury(vaccines, mother's amalgam fillings, dental work, fish), lead(paint,soil,water fixtures,etc.), arsenic(treated wood, pesticides, shellfish, other foods), aluminum(pans, processed food, medicines), cadmium(shellfish, paint, piping), antimony(Scotch guard), manganese(soy milk, welding, metal works) (2,4,6,10)
Toxic levels of such have been found in the majority of Pervasive Developmental Disorder(PDD) children tested. (2,4,5,10,11)
10. The majority of the referenced medical studies can be found in Medline at the National Institute of Health National Library of Medicine, www.nlm.nih.gov
(1) National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, Committee on Developmental Toxicology, Scientific Frontiers in Developmental Toxicology and Risk Assessment, June 1, 2000, 313 pages; & Evaluating Chemical and Other Agent Exposures for Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity Subcommittee on Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity, Committee on Toxicology, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, National Research Council National Academy Press, 262 pages, 6 x 9, 2001.
(2) B. Windham, Cognitive and behavioral effects of toxic metals, 2001. (over 150 peer-reviewed references) www.home.earthlink.net/~berniew1/tmlbn.html
(3) B. Windham, Health effects of pesticide exposure, 2000. (over 100 medical study references)
(4) B. Windham, Autism, Schizophrenia, ADD, Dyslexia, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders; the mercury and vaccine connection, 2001. (over 100 peer reviewed references)
& Developmental Efftects of Prenatal and Neonatal Mercury Exposure,
(5) W.J. Walsh, Pfeiffer Treatment Clinic and Health Research Institute, www.hriptc.org
(6) B. Windham, The Toxic Metal connection to ADD, Aggressiveness, Impulsivity, Violence, Delinquency, Criminality, and Mass murderers/Serial killers. 2001.
(7) Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab, Depression, ADD & ADHD research web pages - click on: (by condition), research studies on causes and treatments, http:// www.gsdl.com; & ADD case study, http://www.gsdl.com/news/kidsdigest/index5.html &
Vitamin Research News(weekly journal), see issues on autism, ADD, etc. www.vrp.com
(8) ATSDR/EPA Priority List for 2001: Top 20 Hazardous Substances, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.atsdr.cdc.gov/clist.html;
(9) R.A.Goyer,"Toxic effects of metals"in: Caserett and Doull's Toxicology- TheBasic Science of Poisons, McGraw-Hill Inc., N.Y., 1993; &(b) Goodman, Gillman, The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, Mac Millan Publishing Company, N.Y. 1985; &(c) Encyclopedia of Occumpational Health and Safety, International Labour Office, Geneva, Vol 2, 3rd Edition.;&(d) Arena, Drew, Poisoning. Fifth Edition. Toxicology-Symptoms-Treatment, Charles C. Thomas-Publisher, Springfield Il, 1986; & Merritt's Textbook of Neurology, 9th Ed., Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, 1995, p668-, & Clinical Management of Poisoning, 3rd Ed.,(p753) Haddad, Shannon, and Winchester, W.B. Saunders and Company, Philadelphia, 1998; & U.S. EPA, Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Mercury Health Effects, Update Health Issue Assessment, Final Report, 1984, EOA-600/8-84f.; & Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 20th Ed., Bennett & Plum, W.B. Saunders and Company, Philadelphia, 1996, p 69; & Comprehensive Psychiatry, 18(6), 1977, pp595-598, &Poisoning & Toxicology Compendium, Leikin and Palouchek, Lexi-Comp., Cleveland, 1998; & Harrison's Principles Of Internal Medicine, 14th Ed., McGraw-Hill, N.y., 1998; & Sunderman FW. Perils of mercury. Ann Clin Lab Sci 1988 Mar-Apr;18(2):89-101.
(10) B. Windham, Common exposure levels to mercury from amalgam fillings and mechanisms by which mercury from amalgam is a major factor in over 40 chronic health conditions. 2001. (over 1000 peer-reviewed medical studies and government agency studies, and documentation by doctors of 60,000 clinical cases of recovery after amalgam replacement).
(11) Psychiatric Disturbances and Toxic Metals, Townsend Letter for Doctor's & Patients April 2002; & Alternative & Complementary Therapies (a magazine for doctors), Aug 2002; & A. Holmes, Baton Rouge Autism/PDD Clinic, www.healing-arts.org/children/holmes.htm
(12) Developmental effects related to prenatal/neonatal mercury exposure and mercury's endocrine disruptive effects, B. Windham(Ed.) www.home.earthlink.net/~berniew1/endohg.html
Technical Contact: Bernard Windham, Chemical Engineer, 850-878-9024, firstname.lastname@example.org
US scientists link exposure to lead in the womb and schizophrenia in adulthood
Dr. Ezra Susser, from Columbia University in New York and colleagues say they have found a link between exposure to lead in the womb and schizophrenia in adulthood. The discovery is based on a study of blood samples taken from pregnant American women in the 1960s when lead was still widely used in vehicle fuel. The information was prestned to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington State late last week.
People whose mothers were exposed to high levels of the metal in exhaust fumes were more than twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as adults. "It's the first time that any environmental toxin has been related to the later risk of schizophrenia," said Dr. Susser. "It's a preliminary finding, but an intriguing one. We think that people will now look at a variety of environmental toxins which can disrupt brain development, and see whether they are also related to the risk of schizophrenia."
Susser believes that lead may interfere with the growth of nerve cells in the baby's brain during a developmental period known as synaptogenesis, when brain cells make many connections to one another. The suggestion is that cells start to commit suicide when they should not. He believes lead may operate through the same mechanism which some researchers think gives rise to foetal alcohol syndrome.
In this, a baby's brain is damaged prenatally through the mother's consumption of significant amounts of alcohol. The search is now on for other samples collected during the era of leaded petrol which could confirm the finding. If it is confirmed, it would have huge implications for the study of schizophrenia, a condition whose origins have baffled researchers for decades.
Schizophrenia is the most chronic and disabling of the major mental illnesses. It is a highly complex condition, and scientists are not even sure if it is one disorder, or a range of disorders, with different causes. People with schizophrenia may hear internal voices not heard by others, or believe that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them.
This may make a person with schizophrenia feel anxious and confused. A sufferer may seem distant, detached, or preoccupied. Sometimes they may sit motionless and silent for hours.
If lead does disturb early brain development, then scientists will be able to focus on other factors which may do the same thing. The finding also adds extra weight to the arguments of organisations campaigning to have leaded petrol phased out everywhere in the world.
The dataset used in the research came from the Childhood Health and Development Study which ran between 1959 and 1966 in Oakland and enrolled almost 20,000 mothers. Dr Susser and his colleague's research is scheduled for publication in a forthcoming edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
© RAmEx Ars Medica, Inc.
RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH NEWS #797
August 5, 2004
TOXIC LEAD AND VIOLENCE
The poisoning of children by the toxic metal, lead, was first reported in 1892. By 1904 the cause of the poisoning was correctly identified as dust from lead-based paint, which was flaking off the walls inside homes. Today, 100 years later, lead-based paint flaking off the walls of old buildings is still the main cause of childhood lead poisoning.
As early as 1897 -- 107 years ago -- the paint industry acknowledged that its lead-based products were poisonous to children. Today, after more than a century of poisoning children, the paint industry continues to sell lead-based paint, though its use inside homes was restricted in Australia
in 1920, in many European countries in 1923-24, and in the U.S. belatedly in 1972.
5-Stage History of Childhood Lead Poisoning
The struggle to prevent the poisoning of children by toxic lead has gone through 4 stages and has now entered a 5th stage. During stage 1, which lasted from 1892 to about 1914, the medical and public health communities simply refused to accept the mounting evidence that lead could harm children.
During stage two (1914 to 1943), medical authorities acknowledged that childhood lead poisoning was epidemic, but they assumed (incorrectly) that it led to only two possible outcomes: death or complete recovery.
During stage 3 (1944 to 1970), medical authorities acknowledged that children who recovered from gross lead poisoning were permanently affected: they had trouble thinking, concentrating and learning; they performed poorly in school; and they were prone to aggressive, violent behavior and explosive tempers.[1,5,6] However, during this stage, it was assumed that a child had to exhibit gross symptoms before permanent damage could occur. Gross symptoms of lead poisoning includes seizures, palsy, loss of control of the limbs, and impairment of hearing and sight.
Also during this stage, starting in 1950, medical authorities learned that lead was disproportionately harming African-American and Hispanic children and children of the poor. This remains true today, a central issue of environmental justice. See Rachel's #294.
During stage 4 (1970 to 1994), medical authorities began to recognize that children could be permanently poisoned by lead even without showing gross symptoms such as seizures or palsy. The breakthrough study was Herbert Needleman's 1979 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, relating lead in children's baby teeth to diminished mental capacity.
During this fourth stage, numerous studies focused narrowly on loss of mental capacity, especially IQ, confirming that lead permanently damages children's central nervous systems, even at exposure levels that produce no gross symptoms.[9,10,11,12,13] I reviewed many of these studies in Rachel's #529.
In response to these studies, between 1970 and 1991 the U.S. government lowered the official "level of concern" for lead in children's blood from 60 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (mcg/deciliter) to 40 then to 30 then to 25 and finally to 10. (A deciliter is 1/10th of a liter and a liter is
approximately a quart. There are 28 grams in an ounce and a microgram is one millionth of a gram.)
Among medical authorities, the 10 mcg/deciliter "level of concern" is now widely taken to represent a threshold, a level below which lead is "safe." For example, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says children with 20 mcg/deciliter lead in their blood are "poisoned" and children with more than 10 mcg/deciliter have "elevated" lead -- but below 10 is considered to be of no consequence. Unfortunately, there is now a solid body of medical evidence showing that this assumption is dangerously false. At levels as low as 1 to 3 mcg/deciliter, lead reduces children's IQ,
diminishes math and reading skills, and changes behavior for the worse. [9,10,11,12,13] There is no known level of lead that is safe for young children.
If we assume the level of concern should be 5 mcg/deciliter of lead in blood (half the current "official" level of concern), we can see that lead remains an enormous problem among U.S. children.
There are about 19 million children in the U.S. between the ages of 1 and 5. Of these, 4.9 million (25.6%) have blood lead levels of 5 mcg/deciliter or higher. Among African-American children, 46.8% have 5 or more mcg/deciliter. Among Hispanic children, 27.9% have 5 mcg/deciliter or higher. Among whites, 18.7% have 5 mcg/deciliter or higher. These data were published in 2003, but they were gathered during the most recent available survey, 1988-1994.[16,17]
How does the current allowable level of lead in blood compare to natural background levels? The relationship between lead in blood and led in bone is understood. Careful measurements of the bones of preindustrial humans have revealed that the true "natural background" level of lead in human blood is 0.016 mcg/deciliter. Therefore the U.S. government's current "level of concern," 10 mcg/deciliter, is 625 times as high as the natural background level.
The presence of a potent nerve poison in children at levels 625 times as high as normal (or even 300 times as high as normal) should set off loud alarm bells, but the U.S. government recently reaffirmed that it is keeping the "level of concern" at 10 mcg/deciliter because, "[T]here is no evidence of a threshold below which adverse effects are not experienced. Thus, any decision to establish a new level of concern would be arbitrary..." The Mad hatter himself could not top that logic.
During Stage 4 of the history of lead, many studies showed that children exposed to lead not only had learning problems but also were distractible, disorganized, impulsive and restless -- the hallmarks of attention deficit disorder. In short, the mechanism that regulates attention and self-control is damaged by lead. It is now widely recognized that the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are shared by many children exposed to neurotoxicants such as PCBs
[polychlorinated biphenyls] and lead.[20,21,22]
In sum, during stage 4 scientists determined that lead, at levels as low as 1 to 3 micrograms of lead in blood diminishes a child's ability to think, concentrate, learn and achieve self-control.
Stage 5 of the struggle to protect children began around 1994 and is ongoing now. During this period, it is slowly dawning on medical authorities that exposing children to toxic lead -- even at levels below 10 mcg per deciliter -- causes some of them to become impulsive, aggressive, antisocial, delinquent and violent. The more lead, the worse the behavior. Herbert L. Needleman has recently suggested that this may turn out to be the most important effect of exposing children to lead.
Violence in the U.S. is a huge problem. Despite a downward trend in recent years, 1.4 million violent crimes were committed during 2000, including 16,765 homicides, in addition to 29,350 suicides.
In 1996 Herbert L. Needleman published a report in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealing a strong link between lead in children's bones and delinquent behavior. Needleman's study was not the first to link lead to antisocial tendencies, but it was one of the most carefully done. Several studies since 1996 have confirmed what Needleman found.[7,26,27,28,29]
Needleman's 1996 findings came as a surprise to many people, but they should not have. As I mentioned earlier, in 1943 Randolph Byers and Elizabeth Lord studied 20 children that had experienced mild lead poisoning during infancy. None of the 20 children had exhibited overt signs of lead poisoning, yet the growth and development of their nervous systems had been "seriously impaired." Among the 20 children examined, only one had progressed satisfactorily in school. Furthermore, many of the children were emotionally impaired as well. Byers and Lord characterized the behavior of many of the children as "unreliable impulsive behavior, cruel impulsive behavior, short attention span, and the like." Three of the 20 children were expelled from school, one for setting fires, another for repeatedly getting up and dancing on the desks, and a third for sticking a fork into another child's face.
In Rachel's #529 (Jan. 16, 1997) we had reported on the Byers and Lord study and on several subsequent studies linking lead exposure to violent and aggressive behavior. Throughout the 1980s studies continued to link lead to violence.
What is different now is the improved quality of the studies, plus much better understanding of brain chemistry. In 2003, the American Chemical Society published a report called "A Recipe for Violence" which described current understanding of the links between brain chemistry, toxic lead, alcohol, and
impulsive, unplanned violence.
One key is a chemical in the brain called serotonin (also known as 5-HT), which acts as a brake on impulsiveness. Individuals with normal levels of serotonin show restraint and think things through before they act. They have the ability to foresee the consequences of their actions. On the other hand, people with low serotonin levels are liable to act first and think later, which can get them into trouble.
Serotonin plays the same role in monkeys as it does in humans. Researchers who have spent 25 years studying a colony of 5000 free-ranging rhesus monkeys on an island in South Carolina report that monkeys with low serotonin levels end up with more scars and wounds than monkeys with normal serotonin levels. Human studies confirm the role of serotonin in violent behavior. Among a group of arsonists, those who set fires impulsively were the ones with low serotonin. A study of prisoners who had committed impulsive, violent crimes revealed that low serotonin levels were linked to more frequent aggressive behavior and greater violence.
What's the connection to lead? Lead reduces serotonin levels. The more lead present, the less serotonin. Lead may contribute to aggressive and violent behavior in several ways. Exposure to lead reduces serotonin and simultaneously reduces a child's ability to succeed in school. This in turn leads to low self-esteem, irritability and frustration. People with low levels of serotonin cannot handle frustration as well as people with normal serotonin. Furthermore, when alcohol is available, rats and monkeys with low serotonin levels seek out alcohol more than animals with normal serotonin levels. Alcohol then makes the situation worse in several ways. First, alcohol metabolizes serotonin, further lowering serotonin levels. Simultaneously alcohol clouds an individual’s judgment and relaxes normal restraints on behavior. Among experimentally intoxicated monkeys on the island in South Carolina, the only ones who attack humans (six times their size) are those with the lowest serotonin levels. Among humans, about half of all violent crimes -- whether murders, rapes, or whatever --involve alcohol.
No one believes lead is responsible for all aggressive, violent, or delinquent behavior. Herbert L. Needleman believes lead may explain somewhere between 10% and 40% of such behaviors. Furthermore, no one is arguing that the connection between lead and violence absolves individuals of responsibility for their behavior. People are ultimately responsible for their own actions, but no one can deny that the physical and psychological environment during the formative years can predispose an individual to aggressive and violent behavior.
Studies show that a tendency toward violence can be counteracted by good parenting and sometimes by medical interventions. Children who receive lots of love and nurturing can overcome some of the mental and emotional handicaps created by lead exposure. Some pharmaceutical products may help some people with low serotonin levels (Prozac, Zoloft, lithium, and others). Furthermore, parents who cope with the normal irritations and frustrations of life without becoming violent themselves-- for example, parents who control their own impulsive anger -- can show children by example that violence is not necessary or desirable.
Still, parents and children should not have to work to overcome the artificial disadvantages created by exposure to lead. This is a matter of simple justice. Lead poisoning is entirely preventable, and numerous studies have shown that preventing it would pay society enormous monetary benefits.
By examining the relationship between lifetime earnings and IQ, and the relationship between IQ and lead in blood, researchers have shown that the current average lead level in the nation's 3.8 million 5-year-olds (2.7 mcg/deciliter) will reduce their cumulative lifetime earnings by $43.4 billion dollars. This will be true of next year's 5-year-olds as well, so lead in blood is costing us about $43 billion each year in lost earnings alone (not to mention the lead-related costs of medical care and violence).
In 2000, the federal government estimated that it costs $9000 to fully remediate an average lead-contaminated home and that complete remediation of all pre-1960 housing would cost the nation $16.6 billion per year for 10 years.[2, pg. 5] With benefits of $43.3 billion each year, investing $16.6 billion per year in lead abatement would provide the nation an enormous gain (extending well beyond 10 years), and would serve our national goal of "justice for all." Unfortunately, President Bush has allocated only $139 million for lead abatement in 2005 -- 20% less than in 2004, and less than 1% of what's needed. At the current rate of federal spending, the lead paint problem will be with us for another 120 shameful years.
 Herbert Needleman, "Lead Poisoning," Annual Review of Medicine Vol. 55 (2004), pgs. 209-222. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=449
 President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children, Eliminating Childhood Lead Poisoning; a Federal Strategy Targeting Lead Paint Hazards (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Feb., 2000.)Available at http://www.epa.gov/lead/fedstrategy2000.pdf and at
 See this advertisement from 1897 offering paint that "Is NOT made with lead and is non poisonous":http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=263
 Sven Hernberg, "Lead Poisoning in Historical Perspective,"American Journal of Industrial Medicine Vol. 38 (2000), pgs.244-254. Available at
 David C. Bellinger, "Lead," Pediatrics Vol. 113, No. 4 (April 2004). Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=445
 Randolph K. Byers and Elizabeth E. Lord, "Late Effects of Lead Poisoning on Mental Development," American Journal of Diseases of Children Vol. 66, No. 5 (November 1943), pgs.471-494. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=470
 See Rachel's #294 at
Rachel's #687 at
Rachel's #688 at
Rachel's #689 at
 Herbert L. Needleman and others, "Deficits in Psychologic and Classroom Performance of Children with Elevated Dentine Lead Levels," New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 300, No. 13(March 29, 1979), pgs. 689-693. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=474
 Theodore I. Lidsky and Jay S. Schneider, "Lead neurotoxicity in children: basic mechanisms and clinical correlates," Brain Vol. 126 (2003), pgs. 5-19. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=438
 Lisa M. Chiodo and others, "Neurodevelopmental effects of postnatal lead exposure at very low levels," Neurotoxicology and Teratology Vol. 26 (2004), pgs. 359-371. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=440
 Joel Schwartz, "Low-Level Lead Exposure and Children's IQ: A Meta-Analysis and Search for a Threshold," Environmental Research Vol. 65 (1994), pgs. 42-55. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=447
 Bruce P. Lanphear and others, "Cognitive Deficits Associated with Blood Lead Concentrations Less Than 10 Micrograms per Deciliter in U.S. Children and Adolescents," Public Health Reports Vol. 115 (Nov.-Dec., 2000), pgs. 521-529. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=446
 Richard L. Canfield and others, "Intellectual Impairment in Children with Blood Lead Concentrations below 10 mcg per Deciliter," New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 348, No. 16 (April 17, 2003), pgs. 1517-1526. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=262
 See Rachel's #529 at
 See pgs. 841-849 of Appendix 4 of the Final Report of the New Jersey Comparative Risk Project (Trenton, N.J.: N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, 2003) available at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/njcrp/Appendix4.pdf
 Susan M. Bernard, "Should the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Childhood Lead Poisoning Intervention Level Be Lowered?" American Journal of Public Health Vol. 93, No. 8 (August 2003), pgs. 1253-1260. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=276
 Susan M. Bernard and Michael A. McGeehin, "Prevalence of Blood Lead Levels >= 5 mcg/deciliter Among U.S. Children 1 to 5 Years of Age...," Pediatrics Vol. 112, No. 6 (December 2003),pgs. 1308-1313. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=473
 A. Russell Flegal and Donald R. Smith, "Lead Levels in Preindustrial Humans," New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 326, No. 19 (May 7, 1992), pgs. 1293-1294. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=471
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Why not change the blood lead level of concern at this time?" Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/spotLights/changeBLL.htm; accessed August 5, 2004; also available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=477
 Deborah C. Rice, "Parallels between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Behavioral Deficits Produced by Neurotoxic Exposure in Monkeys," Environmental Health Perspectives [Supplement 3] Vol. 108, No. S3 (June 2000), pgs. 405-408. Available at
 Alan L. Mendelsohn and others, "Low-level Lead Exposure and Behavior in Early Childhood," Pediatrics Vol. 101, No. 3(March 1998), pg. E10. Available at
 William G. Sciarillo and others, "Lead Exposure and Child Behavior," American Journal of Public Health Vol. 82, No. 10 (October 1992), pgs. 1356-1360. Available at
 Sophie L. Wilkinson, "A Recipe for Violence," Chemical & Engineering News Vol. 81, No. 22 (June 2, 2003), pgs. 33-37. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=462
 Herbert L. Needleman and others, "Bone Lead Levels and Delinquent Behavior," JAMA Vol. 275, No. 5 (Feb. 7, 1996), pgs. 363-369. Available at
 David Bellinger and others, "Pre- and Postnatal Lead exposure and Behavior Problems in School-Aged Children," Environmental Research Vol. 66 (1994), pgs. 12-30. Available at
 Herbert L. Needleman and others, "Bone lead levels in adjudicated delinquents; a case control study," Neurotoxicology and Teratology Vol. 24 (2002), pgs. 711-717. Available at
 Paul B. Stretsky and Michael J. Lynch, "The Relationship between Lead Exposure and Homicide," Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Vol. 155 (May, 2001), pgs. 579-582.
Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=439
 Kim N. Dietrich and others, "Early exposure to lead and juvenile delinquency," Neurotoxicology and Teratology Vol. 23 (2001), pgs. 511-518. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=443
 Deborah W. Denno, Biology and Violence (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990); ISBN 0521362199. I have not seen this book. Denno reportedly followed 987 African-Americans from birth to age 22 years, finding that among the dozens of factors that correlated with delinquency, lead exposure was among the strongest for males.
 See Rachel's #529 at
http://www.rachel.org/bulletin/index.cfm?issue_ID=594 and the PDF version at
 Philip J. Landrigan and others, "Environmental Pollutants and Disease in America's Children: Estimates of Morbidity, Mortality, and Costs of Lead Poisoning, Asthma, Cancer, and Developmental Disabilities," Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 110, No. 7 (July 2002), pgs. 721-728. Available at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=467
 Avram Goldstein, "Bush Budget Would Cut Lead Funds; Poison Prevention is Program's Aim," Washington Post April 11, 2004.
06/06/07 - News section The magical properties of Mercury, the metal the EU wants to ban
By MICHAEL HANLON Few substances on Earth are stranger. It shines like a mirror, conducts electricity and is as much of a metal as copper or iron. Yet this material is a liquid, one of only five naturally occurring elements that are liquid at room temperature. It is the stuff of legend, the key to alchemy and witchcraft, a deadly poison and yet also a potent medicine. We use it to weigh the air, generate reflections and also to measure our temperature. And now Brussels is banning it. Of course, not even the European Commission has the power to ban a chemical element, but what they have done is forbidden its use in traditionally made scientific instruments on health and safety and environmental grounds. Britain's traditional barometer makers now face closure, effectively bringing to an end more than 350 years of a unique craft. Mercury thermometers - every mother's godsend - are similarly under threat. Mercury is poisonous, rots the brain and is a general menace, Brussels says. Therefore, no more shiny quicksilver in your weather instruments. So what exactly is this mysterious substance that most of us have only glimpsed through the glass of a thermometer and which has so riled the bureaucrats of the EU? Quicksilver, the old name for mercury, is a heavy metallic element, 13.5 times denser than water. This density gives rise to some of mercury's most fascinating properties. If you built a bath of mercury and jumped in, you would break your bones. Once in, you would bob around on the surface like an insect on water, barely sinking in an inch. If you had the balance you could easily walk on mercury and it is possible to play billiards on a mercury bath - the balls would only sink a fraction of an inch. When I studied chemistry at school, mercury was most definitely not banned. We were encouraged to touch it, prod and poke the strange glacial metal. Once we even tried to suck a column of mercury through a tube - a nice illustration of how barometers work. Also a nice way of getting a mouth and lungs full of mercury vapour. Another time, a ceramic bowl of mercury was placed before the class. Our teacher called us up to investigate its strange properties. I remember taking a penny from my pocket and floating it on the surface of this silvery puddle. "Go on, try to push it under," I was urged. I pushed. The penny yielded, but only with difficulty. Such is the density of the metal. To touch cold mercury feels like, well, nothing else on Earth. Not liquid, not solid, but cold, clammy - like cold, fresh liver wrapped in clingfilm. A mercury fountain was constructed for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris, and in Islamic Spain large reflecting pools were filled with mercury to allow Caliphs to gaze at their reflections. Thanks to the fact that almost anything will float in mercury baths, they were traditionally used as a low-friction rotation mechanism for the giant mirrors in lighthouses. Historically, man has always treated quicksilver with a mixture of fear and respect. Fear because it is toxic, and respect both for its strange properties and its supposed medical uses. The vapours given off by this extraordinary element are highly toxic. In the 19th century, a process called "carroting" was used in the making of felt hats. Animal skins were dipped in a solution of mercuric nitrate which turned the fur into a matted felt. The fumes given off by this process poisoned the brains of anyone in the vicinity, causing an epidemic of psychiatric problems among workers in the hat industry, hence the phrase "as mad as a hatter". Mozart, who died aged just 35, was suspected to have been a victim of mercury poisoning, the rather worrying symptoms of which include memory loss, excessive salivation, emotional oversensitivity, forgetfulness, timidity and delirium.
The key symptom is wobbly handwriting. The composer would not have got his mercury poisoning from playing with thermometers or making hats, but from his notorious womanising. Syphilis, a venereal disease, was common in the 19th century, and the only treatment was copious doses of mercury - a sort of primitive anti-bacterial chemotherapy. The use of mercury to treat this disease gave rise to the saying "a night in the arms of Venus leads to a lifetime on Mercury". Though no proper studies were done to prove it, mercury may have been an effective, if rather brutal, way of treating syphilis. It was administered in multiple ways, including by mouth and by rubbing it on the skin. One of the more gruesome methods was fumigation, in which the patient/victim was placed in a closed box with their head sticking out. Mercury was placed in the box and a fire was started under the box which caused the metal to vapourise. Interestingly, it may have been the use of mercury to treat syphilis that gave rise to the whole nonsense that is homeopathy.
In the 18th century, the founder of modern homeopathy, Dr Samuel Hahnemann, noticed that the efficacy of mercuric cures for syphilis was increased if the compounds were ground into a fine paste. The idea that minute particles of a substance can make more effective medicine is ingrained in homeopathic doctrine, and to this day homeopaths recommend diluted mercury compounds to treat syphilis. Conventional medicine prefers to treat the disease with antibiotics. It may be dangerous, but mercury is also extremely useful. It has myriad uses - the "silvering" on the backs of mirrors, as a constituent in dental amalgam (despite its toxicity and a publicity campaign by "anti-mercury" dentists, there is little evidence that mercurybased fillings have ever done anyone any harm), and in countless electrical devices.
Mercury compounds have been used even in modern medicine, and mercury was also allegedly used as an extremely cunning weapon in World War II. Allied spies spread a paste of mercury on the wings and fuselages of German planes. Mercury dissolves aluminium, and the planes mysteriously fell apart in mid-air. Mercury's otherworldliness has always been recognised. In China, India and Tibet, mercury compounds were thought to prolong life (although they often had the opposite effect). The Hindi word for alchemy is "Rassayana", which means "the way of mercury". Alchemists thought mercury was a primordial element, the first matter from which all metals were formed. Mercury was thought to be the key to the transformation of base metals into gold (the holy grail of alchemy), perhaps because the noblest and most precious of metals actually dissolves in the stuff. Most of us these days will never experience this strange, dangerous metal. Brussels is undoubtedly right to try to reduce the amount of mercury in our environment, although banning barometers and thermometers seems like busybody overkill. It's a good job the bureaucrats of Brussels were not around when the Caliphs of Granada were filling their mercury baths and gazing at the shimmering reflections within.
Research Links Lead Exposure, Criminal Activity
Data May Undermine Giuliani's Claims
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 8, 2007; A02
Rudy Giuliani never misses an opportunity to remind people about his track record in fighting crime as mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001.
"I began with the city that was the crime capital of America," Giuliani, now a candidate for president, recently told Fox's Chris Wallace. "When I left, it was the safest large city in America. I reduced homicides by 67 percent. I reduced overall crime by 57 percent."
Although crime did fall dramatically in New York during Giuliani's tenure, a broad range of scientific research has emerged in recent years to show that the mayor deserves only a fraction of the credit that he claims. The most compelling information has come from an economist in Fairfax who has argued in a series of little-noticed papers that the "New York miracle" was caused by local and federal efforts decades earlier to reduce lead poisoning.
The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children's exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives. What makes Nevin's work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries. "It is stunning how strong the association is," Nevin said in an interview. "Sixty-five to ninety percent or more of the substantial variation in violent crime in all these countries was explained by lead."
Through much of the 20th century, lead in U.S. paint and gasoline fumes poisoned toddlers as they put contaminated hands in their mouths. The consequences on crime, Nevin found, occurred when poisoning victims became adolescents. Nevin does not say that lead is the only factor behind crime, but he says it is the biggest factor.
Giuliani's presidential campaign declined to address Nevin's contention that the mayor merely was at the right place at the right time. But William Bratton, who served as Giuliani's police commissioner and who initiated many of the policing techniques credited with reducing the crime rate, dismissed Nevin's theory as absurd. Bratton and Giuliani instituted harsh measures against quality-of-life offenses, based on the "broken windows" theory of addressing minor offenses to head off more serious crimes.
Many other theories have emerged to try to explain the crime decline. In the 2005 book "Freakonomics," Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner said the legalization of abortion in 1973 had eliminated "unwanted babies" who would have become violent criminals. Other experts credited lengthy prison terms for violent offenders, or demographic changes, socioeconomic factors, and the fall of drug epidemics. New theories have emerged as crime rates have inched up in recent years. Most of the theories have been long on intuition and short on evidence. Nevin says his data not only explain the decline in crime in the 1990s, but the rise in crime in the 1980s and other fluctuations going back a century. His data from multiple countries, which have different abortion rates, police strategies, demographics and economic conditions, indicate that lead is the only explanation that can account for international trends.
Because the countries phased out lead at different points, they provide a rigorous test: In each instance, the violent crime rate tracks lead poisoning levels two decades earlier. "It is startling how much mileage has been given to the theory that abortion in the early 1970s was responsible for the decline in crime" in the 1990s, Nevin said. "But they legalized abortion in Britain, and the violent crime in Britain soared in the 1990s. The difference is our gasoline lead levels peaked in the early '70s and started falling in the late '70s, and fell very sharply through the early 1980s and was virtually eliminated by 1986 or '87.
"In Britain and most of Europe, they did not have meaningful constraints [on leaded gasoline] until the mid-1980s and even early 1990s," he said. "This is the reason you are seeing the crime rate soar in Mexico and Latin America, but [it] has fallen in the United States." Lead levels plummeted in New York in the early 1970s, driven by federal policies to eliminate lead from gasoline and local policies to reduce lead emissions from municipal incinerators. Between 1970 and 1974, the number of New York children heavily poisoned by lead fell by more than 80 percent, according to data from the New York City Department of Health.
Lead levels in New York have continued to fall. One analysis in the late 1990s found that children in New York had lower lead exposure than children in many other big U.S. cities, possibly because of a 1960 policy to replace old windows. That policy, meant to reduce deaths from falls, had an unforeseen benefit -- old windows are a source of lead poisoning, said Dave Jacobs of the National Center for Healthy Housing, an advocacy group that is publicizing Nevin's work. Nevin's research was not funded by the group.
The later drop in violent crime was dramatic. In 1990, 31 New Yorkers out of every 100,000 were murdered. In 2004, the rate was 7 per 100,000 -- lower than in most big cities. The lead theory also may explain why crime fell broadly across the United States in the 1990s, not just in New York.
The centerpiece of Nevin's research is an analysis of crime rates and lead poisoning levels across a century. The United States has had two spikes of lead poisoning: one at the turn of the 20th century, linked to lead in household paint, and one after World War II, when the use of leaded gasoline increased sharply. Both times, the violent crime rate went up and down in concert, with the violent crime peaks coming two decades after the lead poisoning peaks.
Other evidence has accumulated in recent years that lead is a neurotoxin that causes impulsivity and aggression, but these studies have also drawn little attention. In 2001, sociologist Paul B. Stretesky and criminologist Michael Lynch showed that U.S. counties with high lead levels had four times the murder rate of counties with low lead levels, after controlling for multiple environmental and socioeconomic factors.
In 2002, Herbert Needleman, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh, compared lead levels of 194 adolescents arrested in Pittsburgh with lead levels of 146 high school adolescents: The arrested youths had lead levels that were four times higher.
"Impulsivity means you ignore the consequences of what you do," said Needleman, one of the country's foremost experts on lead poisoning, explaining why Nevin's theory is plausible. Lead decreases the ability to tell yourself, "If I do this, I will go to jail." Nevin's work has been published mainly in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research. Within the field of neurotoxicology, Nevin's findings are unsurprising, said Ellen Silbergeld, professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins University and the editor of Environmental Research.
"There is a strong literature on lead and sociopathic behavior among adolescents and young adults with a previous history of lead exposure," she said.
Two new studies by criminologists Richard Rosenfeld and Steven F. Messner have looked at Giuliani's policing policies. They found that the mayor's zero-tolerance approach to crime was responsible for 10 percent, maybe 20 percent, at most, of the decline in violent crime in New York City.
Nevin acknowledges that crime rates are rising in some parts of the United States after years of decline, but he points out that crime is falling in other places and is still low overall by historical measures. Also, the biggest reductions in lead poisoning took place by the mid-1980s, which may explain why reductions in crime might have tapered off by 2005. Lastly, he argues that older, recidivist offenders -- who were exposed to lead as toddlers three or four decades ago -- are increasingly accounting for much of the violent crime.
Nevin's finding may even account for phenomena he did not set out to address. His theory addresses why rates of violent crime among black adolescents from inner-city neighborhoods have declined faster than the overall crime rate -- lead amelioration programs had the biggest impact on the urban poor. Children in inner-city neighborhoods were the ones most likely to be poisoned by lead, because they were more likely to live in substandard housing that had lead paint and because public housing projects were often situated near highways.
Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes, for example, were built over the Dan Ryan Expressway, with 150,000 cars going by each day. Eighteen years after the project opened in 1962, one study found that its residents were 22 times more likely to be murderers than people living elsewhere in Chicago.
Nevin's finding implies a double tragedy for America's inner cities: Thousands of children in these neighborhoods were poisoned by lead in the first three quarters of the last century. Large numbers of them then became the targets, in the last quarter, of Giuliani-style law enforcement policies.