The other day I was discussing
the effects of air pollution with one of my acquaintance,and she casually mentioned about growing trees.
She said, “Buy some indoor plants for
your home and try planting a few trees in
your area; you should be fine!” That got
me thinking. Is it really that easy? If trees can really solve our problem then
why are cities like Bangalore that have trees in abundance not pollution free?
So the whole thing is more
complicated than we think. So here is what I understood after days of reading research
articles on this subject and talking to environmentalists. Plants DO help in
fighting pollution, but not to the extent we are led to believe,and it certainly can’t be your only means of
improving air quality.
According to NASA clean air study
, certain plants help in removing toxic VOX compounds from your indoor space and also make it breathable and fresh. A more recent study (2004) also points out that certain micro-organisms present in the potted soil can also help in removing the concentration of benzene from the air. However, prolonged exposure to such compounds can also harm the plants. It weakens plants and stunts their growth making them damaged and eventually killing them. While we are not here to discuss the ethics behind this, having indoor plants clearly doesn’t seem to be as effective as we have been made to believe.
Trees as a Source for Pollution
You read that right! Certain trees
like the pine emit volatile gases into the atmosphere. You would have noticed the
organic haze due to this emission in a mountainous terrain surrounded by pine
trees. You can also evidently smell the isoprene when you walk through a pine
forest. These volatile compounds react with catalysts like nitric oxide in the
air and form ozone, a major component of air pollution. So much for combating
air pollution, trees actually are the reason for air pollution in this case!
We can also not ignore the fact
that during spring, many trees release pollen into the atmosphere which is a
major pollutant that can trigger a variety of respiratory ailments.
Some environmentalists also point
that trees with a dense canopy can actually suffocate us. While on the outside
an urban space densely populated with trees on both sides would sound like
paradise, it is actually not so. This is because a dense canopy of trees can
act as a barrier for airflow and restrict smoke and carcinogenic
gases from getting dispersed into the atmosphere. This can over time severely
impact the air quality of the area. Having more trees
in an otherwise pollution-prone area can break the wind flow and restrict the
pollution within the breathing zone. This again doesn’t help us in improving
air quality levels.
While we are worried about the greenhouse effect, just planting more trees or
investing in indoor plants won’t solve our problem. Plants may be able to absorb
certain chemicals, gases and particulate matter from the atmosphere but the
overall effect is not that significant,and
carbon dioxide levels are the furthest of our problems. There is a wide range of toxic gases, compounds and
particulate pollutants that pose a greater risk to us which can’t be eliminated
by planting more trees.
Yes, plants make our earth more
livable and green. Yes, it would help us
bring down global warming,but it can
definitely not help as a standalone solution. If you do wish to have more
trees, talk to an environmentalist and understand the kind of pollutants you are
dealing with, the shape of your locality, wind direction, the source of
pollution and the receptors before deciding on the kind of tree that you should
plant. Trees can add color to your landscape and can make it more livable but
don’t forget to read all the terms and conditions that go along with them
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