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Trees in polluted areas help cut emergency asthma cases

People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to need to be admitted to hospital with asthma if there are plenty of trees in their neighbourhood, a study shows
Asthma trees_web_iStock

People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be admitted to hospital with asthma if there are plenty of trees in their neighbourhood, a study by the University of Exeters medical school has found.

The study, published in the journal Environment International, looked at more than 650,000 serious asthma attacks over a 15-year period. Emergency admissions were compared across 26,000 urban neighbourhoods in England.

In the most polluted urban areas, trees had a particularly strong association with fewer emergency asthma cases. Trees did not have the same impact in relatively unpolluted urban neighbourhoods.

In a typical urban area with a high level of background air pollution for example, around 15 micrograms of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) per cubic metre, or a nitrogen dioxide concentration around 33 micrograms per cubic metre the presence of an extra 300 trees

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People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be admitted to hospital with asthma if there are plenty of trees in their neighbourhood, a study by the University of Exeter’s medical school has found.

Asthma trees_web_iStock
Picture: iStock

The study, published in the journal Environment International, looked at more than 650,000 serious asthma attacks over a 15-year period. Emergency admissions were compared across 26,000 urban neighbourhoods in England.

In the most polluted urban areas, trees had a particularly strong association with fewer emergency asthma cases. Trees did not have the same impact in relatively unpolluted urban neighbourhoods.

In a typical urban area with a high level of background air pollution – for example, around 15 micrograms of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) per cubic metre, or a nitrogen dioxide concentration around 33 micrograms per cubic metre – the presence of an extra 300 trees per square kilometre was associated with around 50 fewer emergency asthma cases per 100,000 residents over the study period.


Alcock I et al (2017) Land cover and air pollution are associated with asthma hospitalisations: A cross-sectional study. Environment International. doi: org/10.1016/j.envint.2017.08.009

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