Environmental Health and Antisocial Behavior: Implications for Public Policy.
* Two predominant theories have emerged:
-- The School Failure Hypothesis suggests that cognitive deficiencies prevent academic success, leading to a negative self-image that promotes delinquent behavior.
-- The Susceptibility Hypothesis suggests that individuals with learning disabilities have personality characteristics that make them more likely to engage in antisocial behavior.
* A large number of youth with impaired cognition and histories of antisocial behavior, regardless of the cause, have entered the criminal justice system.
* Sufficient evidence exists to hypothesize that exposure to neurotoxins may be a risk factor for antisocial behavior.
* Bone, blood, dentine, and cord blood lead concentrations have all been found to correlate significantly with dysfunctional class room behavior.
* Adverse behavioral effects also have been associated with exposure to PCBs and other chlorinated hydrocarbons.
* Unfortunately, environmental toxicology has concentrated on the effects of acute exposures associated with overtly contaminated sites.
* Little attention has been given to subtle effects arising from chronic exposure to mixtures of low-level pollutants.
* Also, establishing epidemiological links between environmental exposures and health outcomes is a constant challenge.
* Demonstrating that neurotoxins have a causal role in antisocial behavior is even more difficult.
* As a result, the strength of the association between neurotoxicity, cognition, and behavior is largely unknown.
* If neurotoxicity is a contributing factor in antisocial behavior, there may be implications for the manner in which the criminal justice system responds.
* What obligations, for example, does the system have to individuals who have been placed at risk for antisocial behavior through exposure to social burdens such as environmental contamination?
* The high economic costs associated with antisocial behavior (in the billions of dollars per year) make interventions that can reduce antisocial behavior more attractive.
* The most effective approach for the present may be to ensure that environmental contaminants are released into the environment at concentrations sufficiently low to prevent adverse physiological effects.
* This approach likely will require increased effort in a number of areas of toxicology:
-- more thorough study of mechanisms of toxicity,
-- more sensitive methods for detecting toxic effects, and
-- more scrutiny of the long-term health consequences of chronic exposure.
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|Publication:||Journal of Environmental Health|
|Date:||May 1, 2001|
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