Leaden responsibilities

If lead is the cause of crime, who is left with the responsibility?

George Monbiot has highlighted research that seems to show convincingly that lead leads to crime (after a gap of 20 years). That raises some key questions for personal responsibility and for corporate responsibility.

Simply put: if the reason you committed a crime is the lead you were exposed to, then how much can you be blamed? The balance of the justice system is likely to be further shifted towards rehabilitation (or even detoxification), rather than punishment.

But will it go the other way for some companies? Innospec is still busy selling lead tetraethyl, one of the main sources of ambient lead. Should that be allowed to continue? And what about all those companies that used to sell it in the past? Should they be held to account for the crimes eventually caused by their sales? In the light of the South African asbestos case, it looks as though ignorance of the link will not be a good enough excuse to avoid liability. And as Dow Chemicals and Bhopal shows, the moral liability, in any case, will linger.

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