The emerald ash borer killed a hundred million trees in eastern and midwestern US. In each county where infestations raged, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease rose.
The death of trees in your county impacts your cardiovascular and respiratory health.
There's been some famous research showing that people recover faster from surgery and take fewer drugs if their hospital room has a view of trees. Other research -- including some of my own -- has shown that mothers with more trees around their homes are less likely to have underweight babies. It's been shown that if you put people in a natural environment, it can reduce their blood pressure, heart rate and other measures of stress. Obviously we also know that trees can improve air quality.
... what did you find?
DONOVAN: Increased rates of death from cardiovascular and lower respiratory mortality in the counties with emerald ash borer. And interestingly, what we found was the effect got bigger the longer you had an infestation, which makes sense because it takes two to five years for a tree to die typically.
We looked across space and time and saw this repeated over and over again in places with very different demographic make-ups. So you're seeing it in Michigan but then you're seeing it in Ohio, you're seeing it in Indiana, in New York, Maryland and Tennessee. So it's happening again and again in very different places. Places with high education, with low education, with great income, with low income, with different racial makeups.
NEWSHOUR: So what's the takeaway message here?
DONOVAN: I put it in terms of a question. Maybe we want to start thinking of trees as part of our public health infrastructure. Not only do they do the things we would expect like shade our houses and make our neighborhoods more beautiful, but maybe they do something more fundamental. Maybe trees are not only essential for the natural environment but just as essential for our well-being. That's the message for public health officials.
Maybe trees are not only essential for the natural environment but just as essential for our well-being.
I've always felt this to be true - without any proof.