Lead Poisoning1 and Delinquency
Research has established that children with elevated levels of
lead in their blood frequently suffer from physical, neurobiological,
and cognitive impairment. Several recent studies have also documented
the link between elevated levels of bone lead in children and later
behavioral problems, including aggression and delinquency.
Environmental lead poisoning is preventable. Much can be done to
educate staff in government and community agencies, landlords, and
families about the importance of testing housing, schools, and childcare
settings for the presence of lead and other environmental hazards
and about some inexpensive measures that can control lead/environmental
hazards and protect children. Increasingly, community-based organizations
(CBO's) are taking up the challenge of lead poisoning prevention.
More attention needs to be paid, however, to ensuring that the greater
number of workers and contractors doing lead and other environmental
remediation work are indeed from the communities in which they are
working. Thus government funding initiatives need to provide CBO's
the control or level of funding that allows them to build the capacity
of their communities to solve these issues for themselves over the
Recent and planned activities
Established in December 1998, the Coordinating Council's Working
Group on Lead Poisoning and Delinquency has begun the process of
developing an action plan to implement recommendations made to the
Coordinating Council. As a first step, the group has undertaken an
effort to identify Federal programs focused on lead/environmental
hazards prevention and intervention. The group is also seeking to
identify other prevention programs that could integrate lead prevention
measures into their efforts. This Working Group consists of representatives
of several offices and bureaus within the U.S. Departments of Justice
(DOJ), Education, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as representatives
of community groups, research, and national advocacy organizations.
Additionally, DOJ formed a Working Group on Environmental Hazards
to Children specifically to enhance its efforts to identify and reduce
environmental risks in communities. Members of the Working Group
are coordinating efforts with HUD, with EPA, and across DOJ Department
components. This work is being conducted in coordination with the
larger Coordinating Council Working Group on Lead Poisoning and Delinquency,
and will be focused in the following five areas:
To Be Discussed at Meeting
Efforts will be concentrated on supporting civil and criminal enforcement
including ongoing pilot projects for enforcement of lead disclosure rules
in Chicago, Los Angeles, and the District of Columbia and on producing
a manual for U.S. Attorney's Offices that would include plans for developing
and prosecuting such cases, model pleadings and settlement options, and
suggestions for effective partnerships with State and local agencies.
The focus will be on coordinating training for Federal, State, and local
law enforcement agents, assisting in the creation and training of special
environmental units in police departments (as in the District of Columbia),
and providing training for Federal and local prosecutors.
- Community Outreach and Education
Prevention and identification strategies will be emphasized including work
to: enhance or complement community efforts, especially in Weed and Seed
sites; redevelop abandoned industrialized areas (Abrownfields@); support
CBO's working to prevent lead poisoning and exposure to other environmental
hazards; involve community police officers in public education and abatement
efforts; establish service learning and job training programs to conduct
abatement work and provide community education about lead poisoning; train
visiting nurses to recognize environmental hazards; provide education to
families; and screen children for lead poisoning.
Additional visibility will be created by including issues related to
lead and environmental risk prevention in speeches by the Attorney General
and other senior Department officials.
DOJ will develop and support legislative proposals that address lead-based
paint hazards, enforcement, funding for risk assessments and abatement,
funding for research, and incentives for States to provide blood lead testing.
- Research and Evaluation
Areas to be addressed include supporting research on the connection between
exposure to lead hazards and juvenile delinquency, violence, and antisocial
behavior and inventorying existing efforts to identify best practices and
to disseminate this information through Federal and State agency networks.
Current status of the two working groups' efforts will be reviewed.
Continue with development of an interagency action plan and with
implementation of recommendations as outlined.
Coordinator, Child Abuse and Neglect Programs
1 Though the title focuses on the
association between lead poisoning and delinquency, lead poisoning
shares a common cause and common solutions with other environmental
hazards that menace children and families-each of which takes a toll
on children's health. Because it is fiscally inefficient, programmatically
ineffective, and arguably irresponsible to address these hazards
separately, prevention and control of lead hazards must be tied at
Federal, State, and local levels to comprehensive efforts to prevent
and control other environmental hazards.