Air Pollution Leads to More Violence

It’s no secret that pollution poses a myriad of health problems to the global population, but that’s not the only danger it creates. As Scientific American reports, a new study connects heavy pollution with violent crime. For example, if you live in a city with smog, you’re also more susceptible to being mugged.

A trio of academics from Harvard and Columbia conducted the research to see how the presence of air pollution affects your physical safety. Analyzing a decade’s worth of data, they determined there is a correlation between pollution and violent acts such as murder, robbery and assault.

However, the researchers didn’t want to end their study there – they wanted to know why this occurred. So they also did an international experiment where subjects were shown photos of Beijing, with half seeing pictures showcasing clean air and the other half seeing dirty air. The subjects were subsequently given two assignments: to write a journal entry of a day in the life of that city and to play a game of chance.

Those who had looked at pollution-heavy photos of Beijing were more likely to cheat at the game of chance, indicating more unethical behavior. They also were much more likely to write journal entries that were more likely to be deemed by an outside party to be “distressed,” “nervous” or “scared.”

It’s the anxiety that the group exposed to pollution experienced that led the researchers to theorize that pollution evokes anxiety, which leads to heightened violence. They point to a wealth of previous research that links anxiety and aggression to support this notion.

“[Pollution’s] effects are not just felt in our health and in our economic lives, but in our moral lives as well,” the researchers write. “The purer our air, the purer our actions.”

Believe it or not, this study is not the first to reach this sort of conclusion. Back in 2015, Harvard and UC Davis professors found that violent crime rates went up somewhat in Chicago on the days when pollution levels were the worst.

Not that this research needs corroboration. We already know that pollution kills more people each year than all acts of war and violence, so preventing all of the negative health outcomes should be the real motivation for cleaning up the air.

However, we live in a country where the president is way more focused on acts of terrorism than climate change, even though the casualties from the latter are bound to be much higher. Perhaps because violence feels more immediate, we take that threat more seriously.

For that reason, research like this study is especially relevant in convincing people to take actions to solve our environmental woes. If Donald Trump is as serious about tackling violent crime as he claims to be, it’s time he take pollution levels into account.

Photo Credit: United Nations Photo / Flickr


Michael F
Michael Friedmannabout a month ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Colin C
Colin C1 months ago

We all know what lead poisoning in the air does to young developing brains so one can only imagine what modern day pollution does. Who really knows what is in that smog.

heather g
heather g1 months ago

People see to be self-obsessed where I live - not at all aware of pollution.

Son Y.
Son Y.1 months ago

I am not surprised at the correlation. Just one more reason to have a clean environment!

Henry M
Henry M1 months ago

We must stop polluting!

Kate G
Kate G1 months ago

another reason why we need renewable energy

JinnySITEISSUES L1 months ago

Pollution of any kind affects our brain matter (dirty and clogged brains). That simple. Thanks for posting.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara1 months ago


Ann B
Ann B1 months ago

no one with any importance or that could do anything READS these reports

Kalliope M
Past Member 1 months ago

Humans are very different and individual at all - and those which are very sensitive can also react in that way. You only have to look what happens, if there is a full moon... some people are already aggressiv only because of this. With this I'm convinced, that also pollution is able to have a negative impact which is making some of us react more moody, aggressive and maybe irrational.