Trees are helping save nearly 1,000 lives each year and stemming over a half a million acute respiratory ailment incidents as well, according to new research from the U.S. Forest Service.
The research reveal, based on air pollution modeling, was published on the services' Northern Research Station (NRS) website and in the journal Environmental Pollution.
"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," said Michael T. Rains, director of the NRS and the Forest Products Laboratory, in a release on the study.
"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."
The research team said the study is the first broad-scale estimate of air pollution removal by trees nationwide. More than 850 lives a year are being saved and trees are preventing 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.
The financial impact of the human health effect totals about $7 billion every year according to the authors, 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.
The authors said the study is unique in that it "directly links the removal of air pollution with improved human health effects and associated health values," and note that the pollution removal is much higher in rural areas than urban areas but the human health effect is much greater in urban areas versus rural locations.
"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."
The study focused on four pollutants nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns. According to the release there were 130,000 PM2.5-related deaths and 4,700 ozone-related deaths in 2005 attributed to air pollution.
As Tech Times reported earlier this year, air pollution issues aren't bound within the U.S. border. A study reveals that China's manufacturing is having an impact on air quality in the U.S.
The research showed that Chinese air pollution that is directly caused by production of goods for export contributes a maximum of 12 to 24 percent of sulfate pollution in the western U.S. Although polluted air from China isn't the only contributor to pollution in U.S. air, westerly winds can send chemicals across the Pacific Ocean in a matter of days. Valleys and basins in the western parts of the U.S. can also accumulate dust, ozone and carbon.