According to a recent US study, air pollution may influence teenage delinquency. The findings suggest that teens who steal, vandalize and use drugs might be influenced by the toxic fumes propagated by heavy traffic. The study was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Scientists monitored the behavior of 682 children living in the greater Los Angeles area from the age of nine until the age of 18. In the meantime, parents had to fill in a „rule-breaking” checklist.
During the study, researchers also installed 25 air quality monitors that measured concentrations of tiny toxic particles called PM2.5 outside of each participant’s home.
The results revealed higher tendencies towards rebellious behavior, values that were similar to teens three or four years older. Based on the air quality readings, three-quarters of the participants were found to be breathing toxic particles that exceeded the US government safety limit.
The federal government states that clean air should contain a maximum of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter. Each microgram is thirty times smaller than a hair follicle, enough to enter the blood stream via the lungs.
Dr. Diana Younan, from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, and lead author of the study, claims that PM2.5 particles, as well as other pollutants, can cause, inflammation in the brain.
„PM2.5 is particularly harmful to developing brains because it can damage brain structure and neural networks and, as our study suggests, influence adolescent behaviors.” She states.
Each participant was assessed four times. The check-list that parents had to fill out included delinquent behaviors including lying, cheating, arson, vandalism, truancy, and substance abuse.
The highest levels of PM2.5 pollutants were found near major roads and in neighborhoods that didn’t have enough green spaces and trees.
Most teenagers who displayed delinquent behavior were boys, African- Americans, and teenagers who came from poor socio-economic backgrounds. In addition, these teenagers were prone to delinquency if they didn’t have good relationships with their parents.
Poor people were more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior due to the lack of green spaces around their homes.
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