The Environmental and Health Benefits of Trees in Cities– a Literature Review

Health and climate related ecosystem services provided by street trees in the urban environment (17 page pdf, Environmental Health, Mar. 8, 2016)

Today we review an extensive literature review (with 156 references) of research concerned with the role of trees in an urban ecosystem services (ESS) framework and how that affects the environment, health and climate change mitigation for cities. Past studies have focused not only on the health benefits of trees, but also the conditions where trees can lead to lower air quality. The paper describes the physical role of trees in allowing for more moisture to be released from the soil to the atmosphere as well as the effectiveness of some trees (with large leaves) to capture air pollutants while at the same time reducing the ventilation and dilution of pollution along tree-lined streets. Pollen from trees causes asthma and allergies in as much as half the population of some cities. The authors suggest that a systems dynamics approach might help to consider the many dynamic processes involved in order to improve urban planning into the use of trees.

Lost Ecosystem Services and Vanishing Ecologic...

Lost Ecosystem Services and Vanishing Ecological Roles. Forest ecosystems in the tropics and subtropics are being quickly replaced by industrial crops and plantations. This provides large amounts of goods for national and international markets, but results in the loss of crucial ecosystem services mediated by ecological processes. In Argentina and Bolivia, the Chaco thorn forest (A) is being felled at a rate considered among the highest in the world (B), to give way to soybean cultivation (C). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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What are Countries Doing to Protect Human Health and Ecosystems?

Global Metrics for the Environment, 2016 REPORT, Environmental Performance Index (12 page pdf,  Yale University, Jan. 24, 2016)

Also discussed here: U.S. Could Do Much More To Protect The Environment, Report Finds (Huffington Post, Jan. 27, 2016)

And here:Environmental Performance Index- Air Quality (Yale University, Jan. 24, 2016)

Today we review the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, prepared by Yale University which ranks the performance of countries in two areas: protection of human health and protection of Ecosystems. While improvements were seen in most categories, air quality is becoming worse mainly as a result of increased concentrations of fine particulate matter, especially in urban areas. While only 2% of global deaths (1.24 million) are caused by unsafe drinking water (and that is due to 80% of waste water not being treated), poor air quality caused 10% of global deaths (5.52 deaths). Overall, Finland tops the list in all categories with policy commitments made to achieve carbon neutral status by 2050. Other Scandinavian countries are near the top while North American countries such as Canada (ranked overall at #16) or the USA (ranked 26) are not achieving as much. This also applies to air quality where Canada at #26 and USA at #36.

env perf index 2016

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The Relationship between Traffic-Related Air Pollution and the Incidence of Parkinson’s Disease.

Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Parkinson’s Disease in Denmark: A Case–Control Study (6 page pdf, Beate Ritz, Pei-Chen Lee, Johnni Hansen, Christina Funch Lassen, Matthias Ketzel, Mette Sørensen, and Ole Raaschou-Nielsen, Environmental Health Perspectives, Mar. 1, 2016)

Today we review research into the relationship between exposure to traffic-related air pollution and the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder. Results from a large sample over 15 years  in Denmark indicates that this exposure increases the incidence of PD.

Histological sample of Substantia nigra in Par...

Histological sample of Substantia nigra in Parkinson’s disease. A. SNpc neuron with a Lewy body, extracellular neuromelanin and pigment-laden macrophages. Haematoxylin/Eosin stain, 500×. B. Alpha-synuclein-positive Lewy neurit, 400×. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How is Traffic-Related Air Pollution Related to Dementia?

Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Dementia Incidence in Northern Sweden: A Longitudinal Study (7 Page pdf, Anna Oudin, Bertil Forsberg, Annelie Nordin Adolfsson, Nina Lind, Lars Modig, Maria Nordin, Steven Nordin, Rolf Adolfsson, and Lars-Göran Nilsson, Environmental Health Perspectives, Mar. 1, 2016)

Today we review research which assessed the exposure of a cohort of elderly patients (79-81 years old) to traffic related air pollution (represented by NO2) in a northern Swedish city. Conclusions included observed associations between dementia incidence and local traffic pollution. The magnitude of the association was similar for both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.  The importance of further research  is underlined by the predicted tripling of Alzheimer’s Disease over the next 40 years unless preventive measures are taken.

sweden dementia no2

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What has Europe Done to Reduce Air Pollution and Related Premature Deaths?

The impact of European legislative and technology measures to reduce air pollutants on air quality, human health and climate (11 page pdf, S T Turnock, E W Butt, T B Richardson, G W Mann, C L Reddington1, P M Forster, J Haywood, M Crippa, G Janssens-Maenhout, C E Johnson, Environ. Res. Lett., Feb 12, 2016)

Today we review a paper that estimates, using two simulation models,  how many premature deaths were prevented with and without the technology and regulatory changes over the period from 1970 to 2010. Results indicate that the adoption of  the PM2.5 concentration to 15 μgm−3 prevented 80,000 deaths and economic benefits of $232 each year. Mitigation measures reduced the premature deaths by 3 to 4 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in central and eastern Europe ..and 5 to 6 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in south eastern Europe (Romania and Bulgaria).

premature deaths in EU

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Can Exposure to Air Pollution Make you Fat?

The air that makes you fat (David Robson, BBC Future, Feb. 1, 2016)

Also discussed here: Residential Proximity to Major Roadways and Prevalent Hypertension Among Postmenopausal Women: Results From the Women’s Health Initiative San Diego Cohort (12 page pdf, J Am Heart Assoc., Oct 1, 2014)

Today we review research based on exposing mice to the various types of air pollution found in American cities. Results indicate their fat cells were 20% larger when exposed to high levels of air pollution after just 10 weeks because of less sensitivity to insulin which converts blood sugar into energy. This conclusion is similar to a study in Ontario where the risk of diabetes rose 11% for every 10 mico gram/m3 increase in particulate matter.

pollution fat

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What is the Social Cost of Carbon Pollution?

How do we define climate pollution’s cost to society? (Elizabeth Shogren, DC Dispatch Jan. 27, 2016)

Also discussed here: Evidence on the Impact of Sustained Exposure to Air Pollution on Life Expectancy from China’s Huai River Policy (53 page pdg, , Yuyu Chen, Avraham Ebenstein, Michael Greenstone and Hongbin Li, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Economics, Working Paper Series, Jun.20, 2013)

And here: Americans Are Living Longer, Thanks to the Clean Air Act (Melissa C. Lott, Scientific American, Jan. 31, 2016
Today we review a paper by an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon (United States Government) which estimated the economic benefit of carbon pollution reductions, taking into account future discount rates and, using a model, the atmospheric impact of a metric ton of carbon, and how it affects earth temperatures in terms of a range of impacts such stresses to agriculture and increased need for air conditioning etc. Estimated costs to 2050 range from $11 (at a predicted 5% average rate) to $221(at 3% rate) per metric ton of CO2. The opposite side of this issue is the cost of imposing a government policy which results in damages to the public.

 

One example of air pollution policy yielding benefits is the Clean Air Act in the USA which has produced 336 million life-years since 1970. Another example from Northern China (with a 500M population, greater than the entire USA) where an earlier policy (which was reversed in 2007) to burn coal to support industry resulted in health impacts and a loss of 2.5 million life years of life expectancy for the region- or 5.5 years per person. The need to consider this direct cost and benefit, as well as the incentive value of carbon pricing to encourage renewable energy use, is obvious.

social cost poll

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