Importance of Trees For Air Quality and World Lung Cancer Day
Why does air quality matter?
Every day older children and adults, breathe about 17,000-30,000 breaths per day or more while at rest. Imagine while exercising, working, enjoying a hike outdoors or any other event that your heart rate increases. We breathe so frequently and effortlessly to provide oxygen for each of our vital organs, the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and lungs. The lungs being the primary point of passage for the air we breathe, it is important to think about the air we breathe each day.
In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 7 million premature deaths annually, are linked to air pollution. Of which, 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer. Considering that percentages vary, depending on the multiple risks, such as with smoking, combined with a gas inhalation and asbestos particle inhalation with lung cancer.
How can air quality prevent or reduce risks of lung cancer?
Avoiding the inhalation of the air contaminants and toxins below will reduce the risks of developing lung cancer and more.
Commonly, risks of asbestos exposure increase in the workplace, home or community where asbestos-containing products or materials exist. Asbestos was used heavily in construction of homes and buildings, prior to the 1980s, due to it’s fibrous, fire-resistant composition, asbestos was used heavily in the construction of homes and buildings, prior to the 1980s. Many of such buildings, homes, schools and construction materials exist today so, if construction materials crumble and the asbestos particles become airborne, inhaled or ingested they can attach to the lining of the lungs and other parts of the body to develop health hazards and concerns such as asbestosis, asbestos warts, pneumothorax, pleural plaque, pleural effusion, lung cancer and four different types of the rare disease known as mesothelioma. Preventing inhalation and exposure to asbestos is the single most crucial way to reduce risks of asbestos-related lung cancer and other asbestos-related disease. Have your home tested for asbestos to prevent inhalation of any asbestos particles.
Smoking, including those exposed to second hand smoke, is the leading cause of lung cancer. Doctors believe the cells that line the lungs are damaged by cigarette smoke due to the cancer-causing substances or carcinogens that cigarette smoke consists of. Each repeated exposure to cigarette smoke, causes increased damage to the lining of the lungs of which over time, the damage causes cells to act abnormally and develop into cancer. Small cell lung cancer occurs almost exclusively in heavy smokers, being less common than non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is an umbrella term, consisting of several types of lung cancers that act in a similar way such as squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
Exposure to radon causes lung cancer in non-smokers and smokers alike, however radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas produced from the natural breakdown and decay of uranium found in nearly all soils, rocks and water. When inhaled, the radioactive particles can damage the cells in the lining of the lungs. Radon is present in nearly all air, inhaled at very low levels, however individuals who inhale high levels of radon are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. For example, if your live in a home where high radon levels are produced in the soil beneath your home, it is likely that radon gas will travel through the foundation, cracks and vents of your home leading to prolonged inhalation of radon gas. Have your home checked today and install a radon scanner to be safe.
Particulate Matter (PM)
Particulate matter (PM) is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that form in the atmosphere as a result of chemical reactions between pollutants. Particles such as dust, soot, smoke, dirt or smoke are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye, where as others are so small they can only be viewed using a microscope. PM10 refers to inhalable particles with diameters generally 10 micrometers or less. PM2.5 are fine inhalable particles with diameter that are generally 2.5 micrometers or less. These particles come in many shapes and sizes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides or emitted directly from a source such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires. Due to the small, microscopic size PM, the particles can lodge deep into the lungs causing irritation, lung disease, loss of airway function, pneumonia and can even enter the blood stream to cause change in blood chemistry and more. Use air quality alerts to protect yourself and others when PM reaches harmful levels. AirNow’s Air Quality Index (AQI) provides daily updates on how clean or polluted your outdoor air is along with the associated health effects that may be of concern.
How do trees play a role in improving the quality of air we breathe?
For years trees have been known in helping to remove or sequester CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis to form carbohydrates that are used in plant structure/function, returning oxygen back into the atmosphere as a byproduct. Therefore, trees act as carbon sinks, alleviating the greenhouse effect. On average, one acre of new forest can eliminate about 2.5 tons of carbon annually through this process, however trees also reduce the greenhouse effect by shading houses and office buildings. By cooling, trees reduce evaporative emissions from vehicles and other fuels and trees reduce power generation emissions by shading and cooling homes and offices up to 30 percent. General cooling also reduces the speed of chemical reactions that lead to ozone and particulate matter formation.
Trees also remove other gaseous pollutants through the stomata in the leaf surface by absorbing them with normal air components, allowing for removal or deposition of ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and particulate matter. Studies have shown that tree cover or surface area of leaves, removed a minimum of 48 pounds of particulates, 9 pounds of nitrogen oxide, 6 pounds of sulfur dioxide, .5 pounds of carbon monoxide and 100 pounds of carbon, daily. Even one sugar maple tree along a roadway can remove 60 mg of cadmium, 140 mg of chromium, 820 mg of nickel and 5,200 mg of lead from the environment in one growing season.
This August, be mindful of the air you breathe and the importance of trees, year-round. To learn more about the benefits different tree species contact your local arbor foundation. For more air quality tips and to stay up to date on our latest news and updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.