Friday, December 26, 2014

Plants are much better pollution-eaters than thought

Scientists have long touted trees and other inner-city greenery for their cooling shade, property-enhancing beauty and, yes, their ability to absorb air pollution. But apparently the greenery has been doing a much better job of it than anyone realized.

Plants are much better pollution-eaters than thought

Chalk up yet another amazing feat for plants.

Scientists have long touted trees and other inner-city greenery for their cooling shade, property-enhancing beauty and, yes, their ability to absorb air pollution.

But apparently the greenery has been doing a much better job of it than anyone realized.

Previously, even the most ardent tree-hugging scientists thought the most the plants removed was less than five percent of the nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter -- both of which exacerbate lung problems and contribute to other health difficulties, including causing premature death.

A new study by researchers from the United Kingdom has concluded that the proper placement of grass, climbing ivy and other plants in "urban canyons" -- those busy streets lined with tall buildings --  can reduce the concentration at street level of NO2 by as much as 40 percent and PM by 60 percent.l

What makes the difference, the researchers said, is that both substances are deposited onto different surfaces at different rates. The pollution apparently adheres to vegetation at a much higher rate than it does to hard, built surfaces - like the walls of buildings.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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