Trees save lives … and the Forest Service has statistics to prove it!

The U.S. Forest Service recently released a report outlining the amount of pollution trees remove from our air and correlating it to the reduction of health problems in the U.S. population. They estimated that our trees save more than 850 human lives a year. They also suggest well over a half million incidents of respiratory problems are avoided, as well. The researchers valued the reduced air pollution as providing nearly $7 billion every year in savings from the reduced number of health problems.The study pointed out a very significant value coming from urban trees, noting that the greener our cities are, the healthier our lives will be. From the news release:  

"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.

The study focused on four pollutants: nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and "particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in aerodynamic diameter," which most of us generally call "dust."

(Actually calling it dust is apparently a bit simplistic. That "particulate matter" is not just very fine particles of dust, but also dirt, soot, smoke or microscopic liquid droplets. And by the way, the term is apparently a dead giveaway for some. I sent the above sentence to one of my specialist proofreaders and asked if it was OK to call the stuff "dust" and he told me I should really add the other items, and then said, "I'm curious about why you are covering subject matter that is in the outdoor air pollutants arena, using EPA terminology." I think it's kinda scary when someone reads about "aerodynamic particulates" and knows you are referencing the EPA! But anyway, no matter whose terminology we use, at least the trees apparently clean them up for us.)

I am glad to know that the USFS's paper is being looked at by the greater scientific community as well.  This should help get it wider attention, which can only help our industry.

Oh, and by the way, this is another stat which I found particularly interesting:

"Trees' benefits vary with tree cover across the nation. Tree cover in the United States is estimated at 34.2 percent but varies from 2.6 percent in North Dakota to 88.9 percent in New Hampshire."

So I guess those in NH breathe well, not just "live free."

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")