CSU Study: Air Pollution Increases Violent Crime Rates
We all know that breathing dirty air is bad for your lungs, but, according to a recent Colorado State University study, it is also bad for your attitude.
The study, conducted by CSU researchers in economics, atmospheric science, and statistics, found a strong connection between exposure to air pollution and aggressive behavior, including aggravated assaults and violent crimes.
Jesse Burkhardt, assistant professer in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, lead the study with the help of economist Jude Bayham, statistician Ander Wilson, and multiple air pollution and atmospheric science experts.
Together, they analyzed daily criminal activity from the FBI, county-level air pollution from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and wildfire data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hazard Mapping System.
Throughout the study, they found that an increase in air pollution is associated with a 1.4% rise in violent crimes, the majority of which are assaults.
The researchers were also careful to account for other possible explanations, such as weather or precipitation, that could have skewed data. They also pointed out that assault is not just physical.
"...you can assault someone verbally," said Bayham. "The story is, when you're exposed to more pollution, you become marginally more aggressive."
Burkhardt became inspired to conduct the study several years ago, when Fort Collins was suffering from particularly bad wildfires. He noticed that the smoke made him irritable, and he set out to see if air pollution was affecting others in the same way.
Now that he has his answer, Burkhardt is searching for other behavioral effects caused by air pollution. He is currently looking into whether or not increased air pollution influences chess performance.
For more information on the correlation between air pollution and violent crime, you can read the study in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.
It's a good reminder that the next time your smart phone warns you about unhealthy air quality, you should probably hold your breath until the alert goes away. Just kidding...but definitely stay inside.