A first national study by the United States Forest Service has revealed that trees are saving more than 850 human lives each year and preventing 670,000 instances of acute respiratory symptoms.

Trees save 850 lives a year in America:

According to a news release by the United States Department of Agriculture, “while trees’ pollution removal equated to an average of air quality improvement of less than one percent, the impacts of that improvement are substantial”.

The researchers said that the human health effects of reduced air pollution are nearly $7 billion every year. The study conducted by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield from the US Forest Service and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bodine of the Davey Insitute “directly links the removal of air pollution with improved health effects and associated health values”.

The report said “pollution removal is substantially higher in rural area than urban area, however the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas than rural areas”.

Given that 80 percent of the American population live in urban areas, the research emphasised how important it is to have urban forests.

“Information and tools developed by Forest Service research are contributing to communities valuing and managing the 138 million acres of trees and forests that grace the nation’s cities, towns and communities,” said Michael T. Rains, director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory.

There were pollutants considered in the study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter.

“Health effects related to air pollution include impacts on pulmonary, cardiac, vascular, and neurological systems. In the United States, approximately 130,000 microns-related deaths and 4,7000 ozone-related deaths in 2005 were attributed to air pollution.”

According to the report, tree cover in the United States is around 34.2 percent but it’s not an even distribution throughout the country. It varies from 2.6 percent in North Dakota to 88.9 percent in New Hampshire.

“In terms of impacts on human health, trees in urban areas are substantially more important than rural trees due to their proximity to people. 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,” Nowak said.

You can read more about the benefits of urban trees in our previous blog posts.

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