A heavy metal may be threatening public safety in Baltimore
BALTIMORE (WBFF)-- Unrest, guns, and light prison sentences are blamed for more crime in Baltimore. But an environmental threat may also explain city violence.
Kim Smith, is a mother of four. Her youngest son, Cecil, looked up to his two brothers.
“If they climbed the wall, he was going to climb the wall,” Kim remembers.
Kim says the window sills and floor boards along those walls were covered with lead paint. All four of her children suffered lead poisoning. Cecil, and his brother, Charles, got the worst of it.
Cecil dropped out of school. He was arrested for robbery, and spent eighteen months in prison.
“I think it actually does something to their brain."
"They don’t recognize some of the things they are doing,” Kim says of Cecil’s lead poisoning.
When a child is poisoned by lead, the heavy metal circulates through the bloodstream, bone, and brain. Over time, lead affects the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain we use to make good decisions.
The head of the lead program at the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, says that brain injury can lead to aggressive behavior.
“There has been shown a correlation with lead poisoning and the violence in Baltimore,”
Nurse Practitioner Barbara Moore says, along with other factors like education and family life.
Research going back to the 1940’s cites a pattern of violence committed by lead poisoned teens and young adults, but some research disagrees on a direct link between the two.
A 2009 study from the University of Otago in New Zealand, calls the association “somewhat weak.”
Attorney Nicholas Szokoly has worked on over 400 lead poisoning lawsuits. He says the link between lead and violence isn’t in question, but “it isn’t like you can pick lead out of a lineup and say, ah ha! That’s the guy right there.”
When Cecil was released from prison, he got a job moving furniture. About a year after his release, he got into an argument in East Baltimore, and was murdered. His case remains unsolved.
For Cecil’s mom, the link between lead poisoning and violence is undeniable, and she points to her son’s violent crime, and death, as proof.