A new study links gas fumes to aggression – but don't sell your car just yet.
Researchers found that rats exposed to gasoline fumes attacked each other or showed signs of wanting to fight. Rats breathing clean air, on the other hand, were less aggressive.
But when I read about this study in BMC Physiology, one thing stood out more than the image of rampaging rats, and that's the city of Cairo – where this research took place.
If you've ever been there, the first thing you'll notice before your plane even lands is the massive grey cloud that looms over the city, like an eternal storm threat even though it never rains.
It's pollution – and these researchers were probably trying to make a point about their own filthy city more than anything else. So they created a study with a bunch of rats in boxes and piped in fumes – and sure enough, the rodents started to fight.
And they got the quick headlines they were hoping for as lazy journalists around the world suggested that gas fumes, not aggressive jerks on the highways, were causing road rage.
Someone should give these people a clue – rats can't drive.
I don't doubt these fumes are bad for us, especially in a polluted city like Cairo. If you're around them from time to time, take a cue from Slick Willie and don't inhale. But really, how bad could they be for most of us, exposed at normal levels? We've been fueling cars for a century now, and unless I've missed something it hasn't led to any widespread rage problems.
Our junk-food diets and tainted groundwater are hurting us far more than any of the fumes most of us sniff (unless you live in a house made of toxic Chinese drywall).
If we reacted to gas fumes the way these rats did, we'd eat each other alive any time we entered an underground parking lot. And never mind the number of fights we'd get into at gas stations.
We're not rats. Even if something like a gas fume was giving us an urge to fight, most of us know not to act on it. Those who can't control it have issues that go far beyond anything they're sniffing from the air.
And if you happen to feel real anger as you fuel your car, it's probably more related to the high price of gas than the smell of the fumes.