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Kent's trees save more lives than anywhere else in country

A new study has revealed trees in Kent are better at saving lives than anywhere else in the country.

Government data by the Office of National Statistics has revealed plants in Kent top the charts for removing harmful pollution in the air.

East Kent came first as around 77 kilos of pollution was removed from the air per every rugby-pitch sized area of vegetation in 2015.

Trees could save our lives (3507899)
Trees could save our lives (3507899)

In the west and middle of the county, plants filtrated around 74 kilos of air pollutants, including dangerous fumes from car exhausts, power plants and heating.

Experts estimate nature saved the entire health service around £1 billion in 2015.

Figures by the ONS centre for Ecology and Hydrology, predicted the NHS in Kent and Medway saved roughly £24 million in avoided health damage costs.

They claim there were 7,100 fewer lung and heart-related illnesses in hospitals, 27,000 fewer lives lost and 1,900 fewer premature deaths in the UK.

Last month, the death of a nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah became the first to be linked directly to air pollution following a fatal asthma attack in London.

While ONS data suggests plants in Kent may be particularly skilled at removing pollution, Kent county councillor Martin Whybrow (Green) believes the study found high level of pollutants removed by plants because the county is heavily polluted.

He said: "Kent is a very polluted county particularly because of the traffic that passes through as well as pollution inherited from London.

"In recent years we've seen a fall in the amount of breathing spaces in the county between our communitites.

"We need those green spaces for our physical and mental health, these areas help natually remove pollution in the air.

"One way to tackle this would be growing vertical garden walls with plants which are particularly good at taking the pollutants out of the air."

The responsibility of tracking how clean our air is falls on district and borough councils with the support of KCC for issues regarding public health and transport.

To help residents keep an eye on the level of toxic chemicals in the air, the Kent & Medway Air Quality Partnership provide readings on the KentAir website.

Cllr Whybrow said: "The responsibility to track air quality is with the borough and district councils but due to cuts to their budget there has been a loss of stations compared to a number of years ago.

"While awareness of the dangers of poor air quality is on the up, measurements of the impact are in decline.

"We don't have anything that shows the picture of what the air quality is actually like in Kent because there is a lack of detailed measurements of air quality."

The councillor for Hythe added he is concerned there are few measuring stations registered on the website.

However Swale borough council spokesman, Philip Sutcliffe, said stations in the area monitor particulate matter (PM10) as well as nitrogen dioxide.

He said: "We have five Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) with four at various points along the A2 and the source of pollution is primarily traffic.

"There is continuous monitoring within three of these - at Newington, St Paul’s and Ospringe, though the latter has been temporarily switched off due to building works adjacent to the site that is monitoring for particulate matter (PM10) as well as nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

"Kent is a very polluted county particularly because of the traffic that passes through as well as pollution inherited from London" - Martin Whybrow

"Under the local air quality management system we are also reviewing their Air Quality Action Plans for individual AQMAs within one Strategic Air Quality Action Plan to make sure we adopt a more coordinated approach to improving air quality."

He added an interim strategy was submitted to the cabinet last October which recommended forming an air quality steering group.

Mr Sutcliffe added: "We know that tree planting within housing developments has a range of benefits, one of which being that certain species can reduce the pollution levels along traffic routes.

"We do not rely solely on this as mitigation but have adopted an Air Quality Technical Guidance which identifies the various levels of mitigation in line with the size and impact the developments can have."

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