850 American lives saved because of this…

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | General Health | Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 05:09 AM

shutterstock_95732236Do you enjoy a morning stroll with paths lined with greenery? Trees are beautiful to look at and offer shade, but you may want to start giving them more credit. A new study reports that trees are saving lives.

I recently told you about the dangers of air pollution, and how this can poorly affect your health. Well it seems that urban greenery can combat the problem – and save more than 850 American lives every year.

Trees remove air pollutants, both gaseous and particulate matter, through their leaves and the ground. These pollutants are then absorbed and formed into acids. Previous research estimated that trees in urban locations within the United States remove 711,000 tons of pollution a year. America has roughly 34.2 percent tree coverage, varying greatly between states, but the more greenery the better, given the new research.

Go green and live longer

The study, carried out by scientists from the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Pennsylvania, recently published their findings in the journal Environmental Pollution.

Scientists sought out four environmental pollutants: Nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in aerodynamic diameter. As Medical News Today reported, PM2.5 has been linked to 130,000 deaths in 2005 with ozone-related issues contributing to 4,700. Scientists made their estimations based on four variables:

The total tree cover and leaf area index on a daily basis.

The hourly flux of pollutants to and from the leaves.

The effects of hourly pollution removal on pollutant concentration in the atmosphere.

The health impacts and monetary value of the change in pollutants.

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They discovered that trees remove less than 1 percent of air pollution. Although this number may not sound significant, the scientists estimated 850 lives are saved by reducing air pollution, also preventing some 670,000 cases of acute respiratory illness. Better yet, the scientists forecast this improvement would save the American health care system $7 billion a year in treating these illnesses.

Moving toward a greener and healthier environment

The scientists noted most pollution was found in urban areas, yet removal of air pollution was higher in rural areas – likely because of greenspace. Health improvements thanks to pollution removal were more significant for those living in urban areas. So those of us living in urban areas should be planting more trees to offset the negative health implications of air pollutants.

Trees also help with energy conservation. They keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, by offering shade and creating tree canopies which reduce solar absorption.

Maybe it’s time to give back to Mother Nature for all she gives to us. The importance of trees runs further than scenic enjoyment – trees greatly affect our health.

I’m not suggesting we all go hug one, but maybe we can take a step and plant one near our homes, or push for more in our parks. Let’s do what we can for our health and the environment.

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