A new study by the USDA's Forest Service tells us what all good treehuggers already knew; trees are good for you, especially if you live in a urban area. While it's impossible to know exactly what benefits the urban trees bring us - including many psychological ones - the researchers have tried to estimate their impact using computer simulations. Results: About 850 lives are saved each year, the number of acute respiratory symptoms is lower by about 670,000 incidents each year, and the total health care savings attributed to pollution removal by trees is around $7 billion a year. Not bad!
The researchers estimate that the trees in the U.S. removed 17.4 million tonnes of air pollution in a single year. While the air filtration done by trees is much higher in rural areas, the benefits are bigger in urban areas because population density and pollution are denser.
“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 Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “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.”
Bottom line: Plant some trees!