Nonetheless, we continue to load up our water and food supplies
with dangerous chemicals. When Congress banned the dumping of sludge
into the oceans in 1992, the result was that sludge was plowed into
croplands. The Columbine High School killers were 10 and 11 years
old when this decision was made, and since that time we have routinely
dumped heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, household chemicals,
industrial chemicals, pesticides and disease-causing microbes into
As a result, are we now fostering a new generation of violent
The dumping of sludge is just one example of the continuing degradation
of our food supply. The use of pesticides has increased 33 fold
since 1942. Recent studies show that trace levels of multiple pesticides
cause increased aggression. Trace pesticide mixtures have induced
abnormal thyroid hormone levels, which are associated with irritability,
aggression and multiple chemical sensitivity.
Children are the most vulnerable to pollutants. Because they are
growing rapidly and they are smaller, they absorb 40 to 50 percent
more toxic leads than adults. Babies fed infant formula rather than
breast milk absorb more heavy metals such as manganese. And calcium
deficiency in childhood also increases uptake of lead and manganese.
An article in a February 1996 issue of the Journal of the American
Medical Association, titled "Bone Lead Levels and Delinquent Behavior,"
outlines the association between heavy metals in the body and behavior
problems such as attention deficit disorder, aggression, and delinquency.
Still more worrisome: At least seven studies have demonstrated
that violent criminals have elevated levels of lead, cadmium, manganese,
mercury and other toxic chemicals in their bodies, compared with
prisoners who are not violent.
Added to sludge and pesticides is the underlying problem of the
transformation of our eating habits and food supply. In recent years,
developments in food technology in the U.S. and other developed
countries have led to sweeping changes in nutritional composition
and amount of fiber in the diet.
Growing and processing food has become a gigantic mechanized industry,
and the explosive increase in processing has stripped many essential
nutrients and fiber from our food. A diet filled with low-fiber
convenience foods leads to a greater uptake of pollutants such as
mercury and PCB. Although PCB was banned in the 1970s, it still
persists in the environment.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported in September 1996
that children exposed to low levels of PCBs in the womb grow up
with poor reading comprehension, low IQs and memory problems. Parents
who feed their families typical processed and commercial foods may
be unwittingly contributing to these problems.
From 1984 to 1994 the number of youths under 18 who were arrested
for murder tripled, according to the Department of Justice. It is
time to look beyond the sociological roots of this trend to consider
the profound changes in our food and water supply as a possible
cause of violent behavior. We need to rethink our dependence on
processed foods and the release of toxic materials into our agricultural
Rather than directing all our attention to bitter debates on gun
control and the violence in the entertainment industry, let's also
consider the pressing need for a cleaner environment and more nutritious