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 journalArticle

20 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

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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    Boutwell, B. B., Nelson, E. J., Emo, B., Vaughn, M. G., Schootman, M., Rosenfeld, R., & Lewis, R. (2016). The intersection of aggregate-level lead exposure and crime. Environmental Research, 148, 79-85.