Could nature provide a solution to dirty air created by particle and smog emitting cars and factories?
Columbia University researchers in New York City (NYC) find that children living on tree-lined streets are less likely to develop asthma.
Researchers counted the number of trees in New York and compared that number to the incidents of children diagnosed with asthma. They found the more trees the less asthma.
Gina Lovasi, an epidemiologist and the lead researchers tells IB News that on average there are 2.5 trees per acre in NYC, excluding parks and private land. But streets with an additional 1.5 trees per acre saw reduced asthma prevalence by 30 percent in four and five-year-olds.
“It’s important to know that it could be something else about the areas not in the trees themselves or even how the area is maintained.”
Whether trees clean up air quality or encourage children outside where they get an early exposure to microbes that build up their immunity is undetermined, though this project holds promise that nature may provide us with an affordable way to offset man-made environmental problems.
So to further determine the effect trees may have, Lovasi hopes to work with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department in the planting of a million new trees planned over the next year under a Mayor Bloomberg initiative, Million Trees NYC and the the New York Restoration Project, founded by actress Bette Midler.
Though her project doesn’t have funding she tells IB News says “we may be able to influence how to go about planting that would make the information more useful. Since they don’t plant them all at once if they plant similar trees at different times we can compare the affect on asthma before and after the trees are planted in different areas.”
Currently there are 500,000 trees in NYC outside of the parks and private land.
The study appears in the May issue of Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
In New York City, the leading cause of hospital admission for children under the age of 15 is asthma.
And in the U.S. rates of childhood asthma increased by 50 percent over the last two decades, particularly in lower income, urban communities. #