City pollution is a big problem, and we should react fast

By Doug Williams
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Smog in Cairo. Author: Sturm58 CC BY-SA 3.0
 
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The environment and its slow decline in recent years is something that has many people and leading scientists worried. Human energy output and overproduction have contributed to climate change reaching worrying levels, and global warming is an issue that is at the forefront of the minds of most people.

The populations of urban areas are continuing to grow, and with that expansion comes more building and an increase in harmful emissions. Many cities produce many tons of pollution every day. There is some hope, however: a recent study has suggested that the presence of more trees in cities and other urban areas can actually help to decrease air pollution.

A green lung in the heart of the city

This study was done by The Nature Conservancy, which is based in the United States. The report suggested that when a tree is planted in a heavily urbanized area, the average reduction in air pollution around that area could be between seven and twenty-four percent. This study concludes that this could be the most cost-effective way for cities to start reducing their air pollution.

While the study does bring hope to the problem of air pollution in cities by suggesting a cost-effective way of improving air quality, while at the same time making them more attractive places to be, it also highlights another startling statistic. The report has found that microscopic particles of pollutants become trapped in the lungs of the people who breathe in this polluted air and this could lead to the death of around 6.2 million people each year by the year 2050.

More and more of us are living in built-up urban areas

The World Health Organization has stated that about ninety percent of the global population living in cities in 2014 was exposed to particulate matter in excess of the World Health Organization air quality guidelines. They also stated that the air pollution in urban areas caused about three million premature deaths in just 2012 alone.

The World Health Organization states that this increase in air pollution is caused by the inefficient use, production, and distribution of energy, with a special note on how industry, transport, and construction sectors contributed heavily to it.

City parks are a valuable resource

While the study seemed optimistic about the positive effect that trees can have on reducing pollution in urban areas, it also stated that many of the cities looked at in the study were, in fact, losing more trees than they were planting.

Those closely involved in the study stated that trees are not to be used as a replacement to all of the other things that a city should be doing to make sure that their air is cleaner, but they can certainly be a great help in the fight.

One of the negative aspects of planting more trees in urban areas, however, is that it can harm air flow; if there are a lot of trees in areas of heavy traffic, then the poor quality air can become trapped by the trees. So when those in charge of urban areas are looking to plant more trees as a means to make the environment and air quality better, they are going to have to do so in such a way so as to make sure the trees do not cause more harm than good, BBC News reported.

City planning needs to include more trees but they need to be in the right places

Hopefully, many urban cities across the globe will look to this study and begin to make moves to ensure that they have better air quality, both for the sake of the environment and the health of their citizens.

City park

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