New Study Claims Pollution Turns People Into Criminals


A new study — from the same researcher who claimed global warming could alter people’s personalities — argues that air pollution can turn a perfectly normal person into a criminal.

Columbia Business School’s Jackson Lu and co-authors analyzed previous research on the effect of air pollution on human psychology, ultimately concluding that pollutants come with a “moral” cost as well as an environmental one.

“This research reveals that air pollution may have potential ethical costs that go beyond its well-known toll on health and the environment,” Lu said in a statement on the paper, published in the journal Psychological Science.

Lu’s hypothesis was that since past research suggests air pollution can cause anxiety, and anxiety can cause people to engage in “unethical” behavior, then there must be some connection between pollution and such behavior.

Lu is the same person who recently published research claiming temperatures that are too hot can alter personalities, making people “less likely to go outside to meet up with friends or to try new activities.”

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Lu’s paper looked at research indicating that cities with higher levels of pollution have more crime, including murder, aggravated assault, and robbery. Another study trying to establish a “causal” link between pollution and crime showed pictures of polluted cities to 256 people, then asked them how they felt.

“Our findings suggest that air pollution not only corrupts people’s health, but also can contaminate their morality,” Lu said.

This is not necessarily a new claim. Some researchers, and environmental groups, have been trying to link environmental pollution to crime rates for years.

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In 1997, Dartmouth researchers looked at federal crime and pollution statistics. They claimed “environmental pollution seems to have an independent effect on the rate of violent crimes — defined as homicide, aggravated assault, sexual assault and robbery,” The New Scientist reported.

“Counties with the highest levels of lead and manganese pollution typically have crime rates three times the national average,” according to The New Scientist.

The Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group, repeated similar accusations in a 2013 blog post, suggesting the fall in the murder rate was linked to “removing lead from the environment.”

In 2015, Harvard University researchers massaged some data to find that violent crime increased 2.2 percent in areas downwind from air pollution sources. Though, the effect was only seen in violent crime stats, not other crimes.

However, Steve Milloy, publisher of, knows junk science when he sees it. Milloy told The Daily Caller News Foundation this study was one of the most ludicrous he’s seen.

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“Did the 9/11 air pollution cause first responders to become criminals? Does smoking cause crime or unethical behavior?” Milloy said.

The answer to both those questions is a resounding “no.”

A version of this article appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.

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