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Planting Trees Can Save Lives

With pollution causing more and more premature deaths worldwide each year, can trees be the answer to improving public health? 

Pollution is not only detrimental to the wellbeing of our environment, but it is also extremely hazardous to our personal health. Inhaling polluted air fills our lungs with particulate matter—airborne particles of dust, soot and smoke. These particles are released when fossil fuels are burned, and are kicked up during the process of construction and farming.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 12 million people died as a result of working in unhealthy environments in 2012. Air pollution alone kills over 2 million people a year, according to one study, with over 3 million more deaths caused by indoor pollution. Over 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to unsafe levels, and only 8% of the world’s population lives in areas that meet WHO safety standards.

But there is a remedy to reviving this vital aspect of life.

Rather than spending millions on implementing expensive adhesives and smog-free towers, a report from the Nature Conservancy shows that planting trees can be a more cost-effective strategy to improve public health. Trees act like giant air filters. When air flows through a tree’s branches, the matter settles on its leaves and is washed down the gutter when it rains, preventing toxic particles from being inhaled. Trees can also cool temperatures by providing shade and releasing water through photosynthesis.

Since these cleansing talents can only reach a 100 foot radius around a tree, officials must analyze what locations can maximize pollution reduction. They can do this by using data showing where they can receive the highest return on investments that locates highest population density and air pollution. Once we are ready to put nature’s own purifying abilities to good use, our air will be less contaminated, creating a cooler and cleaner environment.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Alija