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Is Lead Exposure Behind Cities’ Schizophrenia Problem?

By Sydney Brownstone, http://blogs.villagevoice.com

In New York City, like in many other major metropolises, schizophrenia is a disease that can be more visible than most. In 1999, after a schizophrenic off his meds pushed a woman into the path of an oncoming N train, New York State even came up with a law to make the mentally ill seek compulsory treatment. Kendra’s Law, named after the woman who died on the tracks, sought to prevent violence by pushing schizophrenics with a potential for self-harm or violence into psychiatric care.

But for decades, researchers have been struggling with a bigger question about the nature of the relationship between schizophrenia and cities–and why, for example, growing up in a city makes you more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia as an adult.

A landmark study from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and published last week in Schizophrenia Bulletin may shed new light on that connection–for the first time, animal models show that lead, along with other environmental toxins, could be a major contribution to the link. Read More