While I was working in Beijing during 2010 some of the worst air pollution ever struck that city. It seems that these pollution records have been broken over the past few days with the thickest ever blanket of PM 2.5 particulates covering much of north east China – the video clip in this story promotes a good understanding. This fine-grained pollution, which is linked to the choking levels of motor vehicle traffic in larger cities, is very damaging to heath.
In an unrelated story the health and crime consequences of lead pollution are being revisited. It has long been argued that lead pollution causes brain damage and hence educational disadvantage. I remember such claims being raised in Bangkok when I lived there in the 1980s when leaded fuels were used. Now there is evidence that, with a 20-year lag, higher than average exposure to lead increases criminality. This explained the baby boomer crime surge and the subsequent decline in crime rates with a 20-year lag that followed use of unleaded petrol. I am always cautious about such claims – earlier statistical work by the Freakonomics phonies linked the upsurge in US crime to changes in the abortion laws that meant more unwanted children survived. This work has now been discredited. The connection between lead pollution and crime however does look more serious.