Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael J. Lynch


behavioral toxicology, environmental justice, green criminology, political ecology, social disorganization theory


Numerous medical and environmental toxicology studies have established a link between lead (Pb) exposure, crime, and delinquency. In human environments, lead pollution- like crime- is unequally distributed, creating lead hot spots. In spite of this, studies of crime hotspots have routinely focused on traditional sociological predictors of crime, leaving environmental predictors of crime like lead and other neurotoxins relatively unaddressed. This study attends to this gap in the literature by asking a very straightforward research question: Is there a relationship between hotspots of lead and hotspots of crime? Furthermore, what is the nature and extent of this relationship? Lastly, is the distribution of lead across communities relative to race, class, and/or ethnicity?

To explore these issues, a series of thirteen research hypotheses are derived based on findings from previous lead and crime studies. To test these research hypotheses, data was collected from the city of Chicago's Community Areas (n = 77) in Cook County, Illinois. Information from a range of secondary sources including the U.S. Census, Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago Police Department, and City of Chicago are merged and analyzed. Cross sectional and longitudinal assessments are conducted, and results from a series of negative binomial regressions, fixed effects negative binomial regressions, and correlations are presented. Findings suggest the association between lead and crime appeared particularly robust with respect to rates of violent index crime, but less so for rates of property index crime. Contrary to what prior research suggests, the association between lead and crime appears stronger for rates of arrests for adult index crimes than rates of arrests for juvenile index crime arrests. This study concludes by discussing theory and policy implications alongside recommendations for future study.