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Trees save this many lives each year

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Scientists put a price tag on effect of trees on human health for the first time

For the first time researchers have determined trees save 850 lives and make it easier for 670,000 people to breathe per year.

How much pollution trees remove each year

U.S. Forest Service scientists have estimated for the first time how much pollution is removed by trees each year that in turn helps prevent respiratory infections.

The study that was conducted by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bodine of the Davey Institute shows the human health impact of trees especially in urban areas.

Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory said in the press release:

“With more than 80 percent of Americans living in urban area, this research underscores how truly essential urban forests are to people across the nation."

The study directly links removal of pollution from trees to better health. The study authors valued the health effect of trees at $7 billion a year.

“In terms of impacts on human health, trees in urban areas are substantially more important than rural trees due to their proximity to people,” Nowak said. “We found that in general, the greater the tree cover, the greater the pollution removal, and the greater the removal and population density, the greater the value of human health benefits.”

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Trees remove particulate matter

The study found trees save lives because they remove particulate matter from the air. Pollution from fine particulate matter is linked to increased risk of heart attack, asthma, heightened risk of childhood respiratory diseases and more. Even exposure in the womb has been associated with respiratory ailment in babies.

Why would anyone cut down a tree?

Roberta Burzynski, writing for the USDA Forrest services tells us about the positive things trees give us. She also acknowledges that "sick" trees, crowded trees and more sometimes do need to be cut down.

Some of the other positive things trees give us include:

  • Shade
  • Less noise
  • Lower levels of pollution
  • Stable soil
  • Homes for wildlife
  • Food
  • Memories
  • Mental health boost

I've added a few of my own perceptions about how trees help us:

  • Provide medications (e.g.willow bark, tea tree oil and much more)
  • Prevent water pollution
  • Tell us the seasons
  • Provide homes for humans
  • Provide beauty to the environment

In 2010 trees removed 17.4 million tonnes (t) of air pollution, equating to 6.8 billion dollars from the effect on human health, the study authors estimate.

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Image credit: Pixabay