by Karen Foster

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~ John Muir

As a species, we’re just beginning to recognize that the environment is vital to our health. Evidence is increasing from multiple scientific fields that exposure to the natural environment can improve human health, while the state of the environment’s health affects human health in many different ways.

The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are quickly becoming polluted to the point of being unsafe to consume without endangering our well-being. For this reason, the need to reduce acid rain emissions, to stop dumping hazardous wastes, and to slow down deforestation must considered not only from an environmental perspective but also from the perspective of people’s health.

For Geoffrey Donovan, a research forester at the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, and his colleagues, the loss of 100 million trees in the eastern and midwestern United States was an unprecedented opportunity to study the impact of a major change in the natural environment on human health…

In an analysis of 18 years of data from 1,296 counties in 15 U.S. states, researchers found that Americans living in areas infested by the emerald ash borer, a beetle that kills ash trees, suffered from an additional 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more deaths from lower respiratory disease when compared to uninfected areas. When emerald ash borer comes into a community, city streets lined with ash trees become treeless.

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. The findings — which hold true after accounting for the influence of demographic differences, like income, race, and education — were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. [source]

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