|My niece and nephew in Caracas will be the first |
generation in some time to grow up without
lead emissions in their environment.
There are a number of reasons for violence in Venezuela and other countries. Some have attributed it to political upheaval, drug gangs, lack of opportunity, and failure of established social institutions.
However, I ran across this brief article from July of 2013 by Rick Nevin, a noted economist who has been looking at issues of lead pollution and crime in the United States. His research has shown that there is a link between lead pollution and associated poisoning and violent crime. Indeed, he has demonstrated the rise and fall of violent crime in the United States and tracked it quite closely with lead pollution.
As many know, lead pollution in children causes widespread learning disabilities, cognitive disfunction, behavioral problems, and a number of other problems. Nevin has shown variations in lead pollution output in different countries of Latin America and has shown that there is a link between lead pollution and violence.
What is interesting in the Venezuela case is that this country was one of the last countries to ban leaded gasoline in the world (in 2005). In 2013, Nevin predicted that Venezuela will continue to see increased rates of violent crime for the next several years. At least for 2014, that prediction has sadly come true.
I conducted research with colleagues many years ago on lead pollution in Trujillo, Venezuela. We found very high levels of lead on the streets in front of homes, where children play, and in backyard patios. There was no doubt that the lead was coming from automobile exhaust and that many children were exposed to lead in their daily lives.
While Venezuela is late compared to the rest of the world in banning lead from gasoline, I am glad that the next generation of Venezuelans will not have to be exposed at rates of previous generations.