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More Trees Could Lead to a Healthier Planet

A new report says we need to plant more trees for the sake of our health. (Jerry Oster)
A new report says we need to plant more trees for the sake of our health. (Jerry Oster)
November 7, 2016

FARGO N.D. -- A new report looking at the impact that trees have on our health finds that we need to start planting more of them.

The Planting Healthy Air study from The Nature Conservancy looked at the potential impact that planting trees in certain cities might have on lowering heat and pollution, and how that could affect residents’ health - particularly those with asthma.

The group's lead scientist, Rob McDonald, said trees provide shade and release water vapor into the air as they photosynthesize. Also, leaves remove particulate matter from the air around the trees, including toxins from auto exhaust and factory and power-plant emissions.

"Trees can reduce air temperatures nearby by 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit, and they're already doing that for tens of millions of people worldwide,” McDonald said. "They can remove up to a quarter of the particulate matter concentrations in the atmosphere, one of the most damaging kinds of air pollution. "

Heat waves are responsible for 12,000 deaths each year, according to McDonald, killing more people globally than hurricanes or winter storms. Additionally, 3.2 million deaths annually can be attributed to fine particulate matter, a component of smog. The report said that by 2050, this type of pollution could kill 6.2 million people every year.

McDonald said elderly people face particular risk as the global climate shifts and average summer temperatures increase.

"One forecast from the World Health Organization is that annual mortality from heat waves could reach 250,000 people by 2050 unless cities start to adapt,” he said. "Smart cities are starting to think about heat action plans."

According to the report, if cities around the world invested $4 for every resident in tree planting, tens of millions of lives could be saved.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - ND