The removal of pollution by trees, plants and grass saved 27,000 life years and the NHS around £1 billion in medical costs in a year, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics said that large amounts of air pollutants were removed by vegetation or “green lungs” during 2015 and meant there were 7,100 fewer lung and heart-related hospital admissions.
As well as saving 27,000 life years, the removal of pollution by our trees and vegetation meant that there were 1,900 fewer premature deaths in 2015.
The toxins removed include the most harmful PM2.5 – a fine particulate matter – as well as nitrogen dioxide, ammonia, sulphur and ground-level ozone.
PM2.5 is man-made and emitted during the combustion of solid and liquid fuels such as from diesel and petrol cars, power plants and domestic heating.
Because of their small size – they are 2.5 micrometres, or 3 per cent of the diameter of a human hair – they can stay in the air longer than heavier particles which increases the likelihood of inhalation. Their ability to bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs can trigger chronic disease such as asthma, heart disease, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
London had some of the worst-performing local authorities in the country with Lambeth coming in the worst with only 5kg of pollutants removed for every hectare of land in the borough. The capital dominated the worst five list with Tower Hamlets with 7kg, Hammersmith Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea with 8kg , Hackney and Newham with 9kg. Balckpool came out the best of the worst five with 10kg.
East Kent came out tops with 77kg of pollutant removed per hectare. It was followed by Breckland and South Norfolk with 75kg while West Kent and Mid Kent both had 74kg removed.