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Individual Highlight

Trees Improve Human Health and Save Lives

Photo of Estimated removal per square kilometer of land (tonnes km2) of all pollutants (NO2, O3, PM2.5, SO2) by trees per county in 2010. USDA Forest ServiceEstimated removal per square kilometer of land (tonnes km2) of all pollutants (NO2, O3, PM2.5, SO2) by trees per county in 2010. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Air pollution is a serious health concern. Trees offer surfaces that remove gaseous and particulate air pollutants. Modeling of local environmental data reveals that trees removed 17.4 million metric tons of air pollution across the conterminous United States in 2010, with human health effects valued at 6.8 billion dollars. The human health effects included the avoidance of more than 850 incidences of human mortality and 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Nowak, David J.  
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 634

Summary

Air pollution is a serious health concern. Trees remove air pollution by intercepting particulate matter on plant surfaces and absorbing gaseous pollutants through the leaf stomata. Forest Service and Davey Institute scientists developed and ran computer simulations with local environmental data showing that trees and forests in the conterminous United States removed 17.4 million metric tons of air pollution in 2010 with human health effects valued at 6.8 billion dollars. This pollution removal equated to an average air-quality improvement of less than 1 percent. Most of the pollution removal occurred in rural areas, while most of the health impacts and values were within urban areas. Health impacts included the avoidance of more than 850 incidences of human mortality and 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • State and Private Forestry and RPA helped fund research
  • Davey Institute
  • US Environmental Protection Agency