Leadhead Hypothesis Confirmed
In the Middle East, the major sources of lead exposure have been leaded gasoline, lead-contaminated flour from traditional stone mills, focal exposures from small battery plants and smelters, and kohl (blue color) in cosmetics. In 1998–2000, we measured blood lead (PbB) levels in children 2–6 years of age in Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority (n = 1478), using a fingerstick method. Mean (peak; percentage > 10 μg/dL) PbB levels in Israel (n = 317), the West Bank (n = 344), Jordan (n = 382), and Gaza (n = 435) were 3.2 μg/dL (18.2; 2.2%), 4.2 μg/dL (25.7; 5.2%), 3.2 μg/dL (39.3; < 1%), and 8.6 μg/dL (> 80.0; 17.2%), respectively. High levels in Gaza were all among children living near a battery factory. The findings, taken together with data on time trends in lead emissions and in PbB in children in previous years, indicate the benefits from phasing out of leaded gasoline but state the case for further reductions and investigation of hot spots. The project demonstrated the benefits of regional cooperation in planning and carrying out a jointly designed project.
I say: lead hypothesis confirmed. And the pattern is; the worst-affected young are in Gaza, then in the West Bank, then in Israel, and very few in Jordan. Most were not strongly affected; just as here, most just lost a few IQ points. But over 10 mg/dL is hazardous; and lead-head percentages like 17.2%, 5.2%, 2.2% are all pretty high. When that many young men hit peak criminality age 20, they might get into trouble; with ordinary crime, but also politicized crime such as terrorism and warfare.
The 2000 study urged further reductions. I have yet to confirm that leaded petrol is fully phased out by now; and that battery factory, those stone mills and kohl remain. But they have made strides, and their efforts will bear fruit in only 20 years.