Bizarre Study Claims Air Pollution Turns People Into Criminals


Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
Font Size:

A study — from the same researcher who claimed global warming could alter people’s personalities — claims 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 coming to the conclusion 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.

Remember, this is the guy 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.”


Lu’s paper claims looked at research, including some claiming 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.

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,” The New Scientist reported.

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.

“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.”

Follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter

Freedom of Speech Isn’t Free
The Daily Caller News Foundation is working hard to balance out the biased American media. For as little as $3, you can help us. Make a one-time donation to support the quality, independent journalism of TheDCNF. We’re not dependent on commercial or political support and we do not accept any government funding.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact