Causal Link to Dying Ash Trees and Human Mortality Rates?
Researches say their study suggests that the widespread death of ash trees from the emerald ash borer has lead to an increase in cardiovascular and lower-respiratory-tract mortality across the 15 states in the study area.
Most of the news items talk about the devastation of ash trees (over 100 million dead ash trees since 2002), and some of the steps taken to mitigate the blight.
Now there’s a new angle on the problem. A new study1 in the February American Journal of Preventive Medicine concludes:
“Results suggest that the widespread death of ash trees from the emerald ash borer lead to an increase in mortality related to cardiovascular and lower-respiratory-tract illness. These results are consistent with previous research that has identifıed a correlation between the natural environment and health. They also provide stronger support for a causal relationship.”
Here’s the breakdown of the research team: three of the researches are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Pacifıc Northwest Research Station in Portland, Oregon; one is from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland; one from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Drexel University, Philadelphia; one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (Prestemon), Southern Research Station, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; and one from the Northern Research Station, (Liebhold), U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Of course we know that trees act as a nature’s filter to help clean the air from our man-made pollutants, remove nitrogen dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere. The Arbor Foundation gives a few other benefits:
“One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” —U.S. Department of Agriculture
There are about 60 to 200 million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and saving $4 billion in energy costs.” —National Wildlife Federation
“Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.” —USDA Forest Service
• Donovan et al. The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health:
Evidence from the Spread of the Emerald Ash Borer. Am J Prev Med 2013;44(2):139–145.