Plants could offer a better solution to air pollution

Air pollution
© iStock/Daniel Stein

Scientists have suggested that adding plants and trees to the landscapes near factories is a better solution to air pollution than developing new pollution clearing technology.

Research suggests that by adding plants to areas around air pollution sources could reduce emissions by an average of 27%. Scientists have highlighted that plants are a far cheaper option for cleaning the air near industrial sites.

The study led by Ohio State University, shows that 75% of the counties that they assessed, it was cheaper to use plants to mitigate air pollution rather than using technological inventions like smokestack scrubbers.

“The fact is that traditionally, especially as engineers, we don’t think about nature; we just focus on putting technology into everything,” said Bhavik Bakshi, lead author of the study and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at The Ohio State University.

“And so, one key finding is that we need to start looking at nature and learning from it and respecting it. There are win-win opportunities if we do – opportunities that are potentially cheaper and better environmentally.”

Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the study demonstrates that nature-based solutions to air pollution can be far better at combating air pollution than new technologies.

By including the capacity of current vegetation, like trees and grasslands, researchers were able to calculate the plants’ ability to remove air pollution from the air. Researchers considered the effect that restorative planting can have on air pollution. By estimating the impact of plants on pollutants like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, scientists found that restoring vegetation can reduce air pollution exponentially.

Researchers discovered that restoring vegetation to county level average canopy cover reduced air pollution on an average of 27%. However, there are obvious differences depending on county and region, even if the states of Nevada and Ohio were the same size, the vegetation coverage is considerable different for each region.


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