Trees Study: 850 Lives Saved, 670,000 Diseases Prevented Each Year

A new trees study issued by the National Forest Service (NFS) revealed just how important these plants are to our survival.

According to the NFS study, trees save 850 lives annually, and prevent 670,000 acute respiratory diseases. While we’ve always known that trees are quite important to the survival of carbon-based life forms, this is the first time anyone has put a number on year-to-year results.

According to Bustle, trees remove pollution from the air, which in itself can prevent thousands of deaths each year that are directly attributed to air pollution.

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In the United States alone, thousands of deaths each year are directly attributable to air pollution, particularly the types examined by the study: nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and “particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in aerodynamic diameter.” Compared to the number of real deaths each year, 850 seems like a drop in the bucket. But those forestalled demises, plus the prevention of respiratory problems, mean about $6.8 billion saved on healthcare annually. All because trees enjoy eating pollutants.

According to the trees study, these plants remove around 17.4 million tons of air pollution each year — at least they did in 2010 — and as amazing as that sounds, it only resulted in a one percent improvement in the overall air quality.

David Nowak, an author of the study, explained in a press release: “In terms of impacts on human health, trees in urban areas are substantially more important than rural trees due to their proximity to people. 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 NFS notes that tree density in the United States ranges from 2.6 percent in North Dakota to 88.9 percent in New Hampshire.

“So even if it gives you allergies,” Bustle notes, “thank a tree today for keeping you from coming down with something a whole lot worse — and maybe plant one of your own.”

That is the ultimate takeaway from the trees study. The more trees that we can plant around large urban centers, the more the health benefits and air quality will improve.

What do you think of the findings? Do you think the effects are much greater or worse? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section, just as soon as you’re done planting of course!

[Image via ShutterStock]