Bees get busy keeping pollution in check

But the borough is lagging behind the UK when it comes to vegetation cleaning the air

Source: Tree Logic

 
The amount of air pollution is being removed by plants and trees per hectare in Croydon is only half the rate seen across the UK as a whole.

New figures looking at the amount of air pollutants being removed from the air by vegetation show trees and plants in the borough removed 274,000kg of pollutants in 2015.

That was the equivalent of 31.6kg per hectare (an area roughly the same size as a rugby pitch or London’s Trafalgar Square), compared to 59.4kg per hectare across the UK as a whole.

Even though, per hectare, the amount of pollutants removed by vegetation is lower, it’s still saving money in avoided health costs.

The value of avoided health costs in Croydon, due to the removal of these pollutants by vegetation, was £5m in 2015. That works out as an average of £13.26 per person in avoided health costs for things like asthma, heart disease, and bronchitis.

That compares to £15.53 per person across the UK as a whole.

The monetary value takes into account avoided health damage costs to people – the more people that benefit from the removal of pollution the higher the value. As a result, population density is a major determinant of the final valuation.

Overall, an estimated 1.4 billion kg of air pollutants were removed by woodlands, plants, grasslands and other UK vegetation in 2015, according to a study produced for the UK Natural Capital accounts by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

However, to put this in context, more than five times as much PM2.5 (fine particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, or 3% of the diameter of a human hair) was emitted in the UK in 2015, than was removed by vegetation in 2015.

This pollution removal saved the UK around £1 billion in avoided health damage costs. It is estimated there were 7,100 fewer lung and heart-related hospital admissions, 27,000 fewer life years lost and 1,900 fewer premature deaths in 2015 as result of nature providing this service.

The study looks at the role of vegetation in removing air pollutants, and the benefits they provide to human health through reductions in exposure. Most harmful is PM2.5, but the study also covers PM10, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, ammonia and sulphur dioxide.

Most PM2.5 is man-made, and is emitted during the combustion of solid and liquid fuels, such as from diesel and petrol cars, power plants and domestic heating.

Due to their small size, PM2.5 can stay in the air longer than heavier particles, increasing the likelihood of inhalation. This can be damaging to human health as they can bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs, triggering chronic disease such as asthma, heart disease, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.

The Office for National Statistics, which published the report, said even though vegetation will not solve the whole issue of air quality in the UK, and in some cases vegetation can have adverse effects on air quality, the service of air pollution absorption by vegetation is nevertheless an important one.

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