The recent death of Baltimore man Freddie Gray, who’s spinal cord was apparently snapped when in police custody, has sparked not only an investigation into police practices but has also reinvigorated the discussion around the potential effects of lead poisoning in children. Despite long being known to be harmful, the effects of lead paint in the homes of children are still being discovered and surprisingly, are still having an effect. The question of the moment, though, is can lead poisoning in children ultimately lead to criminal behavior in adults?
Lead Paint and its Effects
Although the practice of putting lead into paint was banned in 1978, many homes, especially in poor socio-economic areas, still have lead paint on the interior and exterior walls. In time, this paint deteriorates and will chip or release dust that can either be breathed in or more likely swallowed by children. It wasn’t so long ago that 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood was considered a safe level. However in 2012, following a 30 year study into the effects of lead poisoning, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduced that number to just five micrograms per deciliter. Now, many argue that there is no safe level at all. What’s even scarier is that in 2007, an estimated 25% of homes still contained deteriorating lead paint and currently, more than four per cent of children in the US have some level of lead poisoning. These figures rise in big cities and poor urban areas.
Do we have an obligation to reproduce or is it okay to not want kids?
The choice to live your life childfree is still surprisingly taboo, even given the modern propensity for contraception and increasing reproductive freedom. It’s got to be said, there is a clear distinction between being childless and childfree. Whilst the former would like to have children but cannot, be it due to infertility or illness or whatever, this issue is one that deals primarily with the latter – the childfree, those who are able but choose not to procreate. The choice to not have children often shocks people and the proclamation is, more often than not, met with insidious comments like “there must be something wrong with you,” “that’s just selfish,” “you were a child once,” and worse “you’ll change your mind when you get older/meet the right man/your biological clock starts ticking”. It’s surprising, primarily, because in an age when we pride ourselves on freedom and choice, we still ultimately put an obligation on reproduction.
The ‘unnaturalness’ of it all
As anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy points out, women are associated with the ideals of nurturing and child-rearing and so, when a woman decides that she wants to remain childfree – or worse, declares that motherhood was a mistake after the fact – they are seen as unnatural, as though something is wrong with them. Jessica Valenti argues that all women are separated into two distinct categories: mothers and non-mothers and in this way, parenthood defines us. Not whether we are or are going to be good parents of course, just whether or not we are parents – and the idea that we will be, and that we want to be, is still seen as our ‘default setting’.