UniSci has a communication from Karl Simanonok, Ph.D., a space physiologist, who asks the question, Does lead poisoning explain Osama bin Laden's madness?
Dr. Simanonok writes, "When I managed the blood lab at a northern California clinic for the poor, Pakistani children were often found to be contaminated with lead from the black makeup called 'kohl' that their mothers applied around their eyes. Middle Eastern mothers use it on their boys just as much as their girls.
"Lead poisoning is especially bad for children because it can reduce their IQs dramatically and cause developmental problems. In both children and adults, problems associated with lead poisoning increase with blood levels, from behavioral and learning disorders to various physical ailments including high blood pressure and kidney problems, even at moderate levels. At very high levels, lead can cause convulsions, paralysis, coma or death.
"Besides the fact that many Arab cultures have a history of prolonged lead exposure through kohl (with nothing like our EPA or FDA to limit any of it), lead poisoning should especially be considered a possible factor in recent events because many Arab fighters, including some of the Taliban, traditionally use kohl around their eyes.
"Some pictures of Osama bin Laden certainly suggest he might be wearing kohl, and it is known that he suffers from kidney problems. Lead poisoning could explain bin Laden's kidney problems and could only contribute to the madness of suicide bombers under the influence of malignant religious views."
In support of his hypothesis, Dr. Simanonok cited several reports, including Roger D. Masters' Sept. 1999 Plenary Address to the Annual Conference of the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences. Masters is Nelson D. Rockefeller Professor Emeritus in the Dartmouth College Department of Government and head of the Dartmouth Foundation for Neuroscience and Society. At this URL there is a copy of Masters' address, which states in part:
"Heavy metals compromise normal brain development and neurotransmitter function, leading to long-term deficits in learning and social behavior. At the individual level, earlier studies revealed that hyperactive children and criminal offenders have significantly elevated levels of lead, manganese, or cadmium compared to controls; high blood lead at age seven predicts juvenile delinquency and adult crime. At the environmental level, our research has found that environmental factors associated with toxicity are correlated with higher rates of anti-social behavior.
"For the period 1977 to 1997, levels of violent crime and teenage homicide were significantly correlated with the probability of prenatal and infant exposure to leaded gasoline years earlier. Across all U.S. counties for both 1985 and 1991, industrial releases of heavy metals were -— controlling for over 20 socio-economic and demographic factors -— also a risk-factor for higher rates of crime.
"Surveys of children's blood lead in Massachusetts, New York, and other states as well as NHANES III and an NIJ study of 24 cities point to another environmental factor: where silicofluorides are used as water treatment agents, risk-ratios for blood lead over 10µg/dL are from 1.25 to 2.5, with significant interactions between the silicofluorides and other factors associated with lead uptake. Communities using silicofluorides also report higher rates of learning disabilities, ADHD, violent crime, and criminals who were using cocaine at the time of arrest."
These statements are based upon research Masters conducted with Myron J. Coplan (Intellequity, Natick, MA) and Brian Hone under grants from the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Earhart Foundation, and the Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences, Dartmouth College.
(Editor's Note: UniSci readers might want to check out one or two UniSci articles on lead and its effects, including Exposure To Lead Proves Bad In Short And Long Term and Link Seen Between Lead Level In Air And Homicide Rate.)
[Contact: Karl Simanonok Ph.D.]