Portlanders can now see how clean the air is in their neighborhood compared with others across the city. That’s thanks to a new study out by an interdisciplinary team of Portland State University researchers. The study examines the relationship between urban trees, air pollutants and respiratory health.
Researchers found that mature trees significantly reduce the amount of noxious gases in the air. The study calculated the benefit of Portland’s urban trees at nearly $7 million annually in prevented hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and absences from school or work due to asthma and other respiratory illness.
The study also raises questions about social equity and who is most advantaged by Portland’s “legacy landscapes.” Vivek Shandas, co-author of the study and associate professor of Urban Planning and Policy at PSU, asks, “Does wealth follow the trees or do the trees follow the wealth? It’s a chicken and egg scenario.”
We’ll talk more to Shandas about the details of the study and the role it could play in both city planning and individual household decisions.