Science 3 min read

Breathing Dirty Air Can Make You More Aggressive New Study Says

Researchers revealed that breathing dirty air not only affects a person's physical health, but it could also influence behavior.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

According to a recent study at Colorado State University, breathing dirty air can make you more aggressive.

Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the atmosphere that can harm the human. So, it’s not surprising people have reported various health effects from being exposed to dirty air.

These ranges from short term effects like pneumonia and bronchitis to the long-term impacts like respiratory diseases and lung cancer. According to estimates, nearly 2.5 million across the world die every year from the effects of air pollution.

It turns out that the effect of breathing polluted air extends beyond physical health and could influence behavior. In a recent paper published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, CSU researchers described the relationship between exposure to air pollution could increase the crime rate.

How is this possible, you ask?

The Relationship Between Breathing Dirty Air and Increased Crime Rate

For the study, the CSU team cross-analyzed the daily criminal activity from the National Incident-Based Reporting System managed by the FBI.

They also considered the daily, county-level air pollution from 2006-2013 collected by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors and daily data on wildfire smoke plumes from satellite imagery.

The data revealed that 56 percent of violent crimes and 60 percent of assaults occurred within the home. This suggests a link between the crimes and domestic violence.

Findings from the study suggest that a ten microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in exposure to air pollution leads to a 1.4 percent increase in violent crimes. The researchers also linked a 0.01 parts-per-million increase in same-day exposure to dirty air with a 0.97 percent increase in violent crime, or a 1.15 percent increase in assaults.

Speaking to the press, co-author of the study, Jude Bayham said:

“We’re talking about crimes that might not even be physical — you can assault someone verbally. The story is, when you’re exposed to more pollution, you become marginally more aggressive, so those altercations – some things that may not have escalated – do escalate.”

With that said, the study did not explore how exposure to dirty air could lead to more aggression. Instead, it only suggested a robust correlative relationship between such crimes and pollution levels.

In other words, we don’t know why it happens; we just know that it does.

The results are fascinating, and also scary,” said Jeff Pierce, an associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science and a Monfort Professor. “When you have more air pollution, this specific type of crime, domestic violent crime, in particular, increases quite significantly.”

Read More: Air Pollution Can Accelerate Progression of Emphysema of the Lung

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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