UWM study finds over half of gun violence perpetrators and victims had elevated blood lead levels as children

By Talis Shelbourne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
October 19, 2019

More than half of the people who were perpetrators or victims of gun violence in Milwaukee in recent years had elevated blood lead levels as children, according to a study released Friday by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The study of nearly 90,000 residents, conducted at the University’s Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, suggests a link between early childhood lead exposure and gun violence in later years.

Lindsay R. Emer, the study’s lead author, said it was conducted using public health, education and criminal justice data.

After reviewing the records of 89,129 people who were born in Milwaukee between June 1, 1986, and Dec. 31, 2003, and given blood lead tests before the age of 6, Emer and other researchers found a correlation between elevated blood lead levels and the risk of being involved in gun violence.

Emer said that while the study was not able to definitively prove cause and effect, the link is striking:

According to their findings, 56% of the shooters and 51% of the victims were found to have blood lead levels equal to or greater than the recommended limit of lead exposure of 5 micrograms per deciliter.

Read the full article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.