We know that air pollution is unhealthy and now new research has found that it can also make people feel more aggressive…
A team Colorado State University researchers in economics, atmospheric science and statistics found strong links between short-term exposure to air pollution and aggravated assaults and other violent crimes.
The results derived from daily Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics and an eight-year, detailed map of daily U.S. air pollution.
Lead study author Jesse Burkhardt, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, had wanted to study whether breathing smoke could enact behavioural change when he met atmospheric scientist Jeff Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science and a Monfort Professor.
“Several years ago, Fort Collins experienced a fairly severe wildfire season,” says Burkhardt. “The smoke was so bad that after a few days, I started to get frustrated, and I wondered if frustration and aggression would show up in aggregate crime data.”
Pierce recognised that the pollution-concentration product he and colleagues had designed, which provided detailed concentrations of total particulate matter and the fraction from smoke, would be useful for Burkhardt’s desired application.
The results are scary
Air pollution is typically measured through concentrations of ozone and “PM2.5,” or breathable particulate matter 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller, which has documented associations with health effects.
The research results show a 10 microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in same-day exposure to PM2.5 is associated with a 1.4% increase in violent crimes, nearly all of which is driven by crimes categorised as assaults.
They found that 56 percent of violent crimes and 60 percent of assaults occurred within the home, an indication that many such crimes are tied to domestic violence.
Researchers also found that a 0.01 parts-per-million increase in same-day exposure to ozone is associated with a 0.97% increase in violent crime, or a 1.15% increase in assaults. Changes in these air pollution measures had no statistically significant effect on any other category of crime.
“The results are fascinating, and also scary,” says Pierce. “When you have more air pollution, this specific type of crime, domestic violent crime in particular, increases quite significantly.”
The economists calculated that a 10 percent reduction in daily PM2.5 could save $1.1 million in crime costs per year, which they called a “previously overlooked cost associated with pollution.”
Source: Colorado State University via www.sciencedaily.com
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