Could air pollution being leading to violence in America? Researchers out of Colorado State University say yes. In fact, they argue that they have made a clear connection.

“The most important implication of our study is that the social costs of air pollution are likely higher than we initially thought,” said Jude Bayham, an assistant professor at Colorado State University and one of the authors of the study.

He says we can no longer view air pollution as only impacting our health. 

“You may want to anticipate elevated crime if pollution is expected to increase because of wildfire smoke for instance,” Bayham said.

Interestingly, the study found only violent crime went up, not property crimes. And it wasn’t an aberration. The team studied years of data from across 400 counties, including Maricopa County.

According to Bayham, pollution may cause someone to let their emotions get the best of them and that escalates into an assault.

He said the researchers were mindful of other potential causes, including heat waves and precipitation. But those variables were accounted for, leaving air pollution responsible for at least some uptick in violent crime.

 “Which would suggest,” Bayham said, “more stringent air quality regulations would be justified.”