Air pollution can increase unethical behavior such as crime and cheating, a new study warned. Negative effects of air pollution are widely-known, but now a study conducted on adults in India and the US discovered that it also leads to other societal ills, such as higher crime rates.
The experimental studies suggest that exposure to air pollution is linked with unethical behavior and this association may be due to increased anxiety.
Lead author of the study, Jackson G. Lu of Columbia Business School said that air pollution not just only affects the health of people but can also pollute their morality.
During the study, researchers examined 9,360 US cities’ air pollution and crime data that was collected over a nine-year period. The air pollution data was filled with the information about six major pollutants including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide. Besides, the crime data included information about crimes separated into major categories including aggravated assault, robbery, and murder. Their research found that air-polluted cities with higher rates also tended to have higher levels of crime.
“What this tells us is that there’s an ethical cost to air pollution,” Lee, assistant professor of management and organizations at U-M’s Ross School of Business. “It increases anxiety and this leads to unethical behavior. It’s a mechanism from behavioral science that can help explain the connection between air pollution and higher crime rates,” Lee added.
The researchers believe that air pollution can increase unethical behavior and criminal activity by increasing anxiety.