Pol­lu­tion may be mak­ing peo­ple more vi­o­lent

US Sci­en­tists Find Strong Links Be­tween Short-Term Ex­po­sure To Bad Air And Rise In Ag­gra­vated As­saults

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Trends -

Wash­ing­ton: Ex­po­sure to air pol­lu­tion is as­so­ci­ated with in­creased chances of ex­hibit­ing ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted in the US. Re­searchers from Colorado State Univer­sity (CSU) in the US an­a­lysed a set of stud­ies, find­ing strong links be­tween short-term ex­po­sure to air pol­lu­tion and ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, in the form of ag­gra­vated as­saults and other vi­o­lent crimes across the US.

The re­sults, ap­pear­ing in the Jour­nal of En­vi­ron­men­tal Eco­nom­ics and Man­age­ment, were de­rived from daily Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (FBI) crime statis­tics and an eight-year, de­tailed map of daily US air pol­lu­tion.

Sci­en­tists typ­i­cally mea­sure rates of pol­lu­tion through con­cen­tra­tions of ozone, as well as of “PM2.5”, or breath­able par­tic­u­late mat­ter 2.5 mi­crons in di­am­e­ter or smaller, which has doc­u­mented as­so­ci­a­tions with health ef­fects.

Eighty-three per cent of crimes con­sid­ered “vi­o­lent” by the FBI are cat­e­gorised as as­saults in crime data­bases, the re­searchers said.

They ob­served whether crimes oc­curred in­side or out­side the home, find­ing that 56% of vi­o­lent crimes and 60% of as­saults oc­curred within homes, an in­di­ca­tion that many such crimes are tied to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

The re­sults show that a 10 mi­cro­gramme-per-cu­bic-me­tre in­crease in same-day ex­po­sure to PM2.5 is as­so­ci­ated with a 1.4% in­crease in vi­o­lent crimes, nearly all of which were crimes cat­e­gorised as as­saults. 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 a1.15% in­crease in as­saults.

Changes in these air pol­lu­tion mea­sures had no sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on any other cat­e­gory of crime, the re­searchers said. “We’re talk­ing about crimes that might not even be phys­i­cal — you can as­sault some­one ver­bally,” said Jude Bay­ham, from CSU.

“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,” said Bay­ham. The re­searchers made no claims on the phys­i­o­log­i­cal, mech­a­nis­tic re­la­tion­ship of how ex­po­sure to pol­lu­tion leads some­one to be­come more ag­gres­sive.

Their re­sults only show a strong cor­rel­a­tive re­la­tion­ship be­tween such crimes and levels of air pol­lu­tion.

The re­searchers were care­ful to cor­rect for other pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions, in­clud­ing weather, heat waves, pre­cip­i­ta­tion, or more gen­eral, county-spe­cific con­found­ing fac­tors.

The team pub­lished a com­pan­ion pa­per in the Jour­nal of En­vi­ron­men­tal Eco­nom­ics and Pol­icy with sim­i­lar re­sults that used monthly crime statis­tics. A third pa­per, pub­lished in the jour­nal Epi­demi­ol­ogy by re­searchers at Univer­sity of Min­nesota in the US and co-au­thors from CSU, used the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) pol­lu­tion mon­i­tor data­bases and dif­fer­ent sta­tis­ti­cal tech­niques and came to sim­i­lar con­clu­sions. “The re­sults are fas­ci­nat­ing, and also scary,” said co-au­thor Jeff Pierce, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at CSU. “When you have more air pol­lu­tion, this spe­cific type of crime, do­mes­tic vi­o­lent crime in par­tic­u­lar, in­creases quite sig­nif­i­cantly,” Pierce said.

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