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When Trees Die, So Do Humans

when-trees-die-so-do-humans_imageIn 2002, scientists discovered that a beetle known as the emerald ash borer was killing ash trees in the United States. By 2010, 100 million trees were dead. And so were at least 21,000 Americans who died along with the trees.

When the emerald ash borer comes into a community, city streets lined with ash trees become treeless. Researchers believe that the death of those trees also leads to extra human deaths. The comfort we derive from trees supports our health. Take that away and many of us can’t endure.

An analysis of 18 years of data from 1,296 counties in 15 States, showed that people living in areas infested by the borer suffered from an additional 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more deaths from lower respiratory disease when compared to uninfected areas.

The researchers analyzed demographic, human mortality and forest health data at the county level between 1990 and 2007. The data came from counties in States with at least one confirmed case of the emerald ash borer in 2010.

“There’s a natural tendency to see our findings and conclude that, surely, the higher mortality rates are because of some confounding variable, like income or education, and not the loss of trees,” says Geoffrey Donovan, a research forester at the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. “But we saw the same pattern repeated over and over in counties with very different demographic makeups.”

Filed Under: Alternative MedicineEasy Health Options NewsGeneral Health

About the Author: Carl Lowe has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.

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  • Elda

    I live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We have oak trees that are older than this nation everywhere you look. We have lost one or two now and then as I grew up. But this year I am seeing them dropping like never before. It is almost to where you don’t wish to stand near one for fear it will split and crash down on you. I am sure it is old age and rot but I see it as a symbol of what is happening to our federal government. It has simply gotten to big to support itself anymore, it is splitting and crashing down. Is a neighbor wished to save the tree they must get out a chain saw and cut out the big heavy branches and keep the tree lean and even. No one wants to do that though.