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Earth Medicine Science

Death of Trees Correlated With Human Cardiovascular & Respiratory Disease 152

eldavojohn writes "PBS's NewsHour interviewed Geoffrey Donovan on his recent research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that noted a correlation between trees (at least the 22 North American ash varieties) and human health: 'Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people's health. And if that's true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does.' The basis of this research is Agrilus planipennis, the emerald ash borer, has systematically destroyed 100 million trees in the eastern half of the United States since 2002. After accounting for all variables, the research found that an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease in the 15 states infected with the bug, compared with uninfected areas of the country. While the exact cause and effect remains unknown, this research appears to be reinforcing data for people who regularly enjoy forest bathing as well as providing evidence that the natural environment provides major public health benefits."
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Death of Trees Correlated With Human Cardiovascular & Respiratory Disease

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  • Re:Bad science (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @03:24PM (#43977237)

    > Take a good look guys.

    Too bad you didn't.

    > -- why are there more trees in a given area

    Isn't what this work studied. They correlated a specific insect cause of tree death with human welfare. The methodology was specifically constructed to remove confounding factors— things like air pollution killing both the trees and the humans.

    That isn't to say the research is flawless but it was deeper and more carefully constructed that your slashdot arm-chair-expert off the hip comment gives it credit for.

  • Re:Bad science (Score:5, Informative)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @03:45PM (#43977465)

    Seriously, did you even read the damned summary before you post? They controlled for demographic variables over time. The exact quote from the abstract is "Two fixed-effects regression models were used to estimate the relationship between emerald ash borer presence and county-level mortality from 1990 to 2007 in 15 U.S. states, while controlling for a wide range of demographic covariates." But yeah, I'm sure you identified the major problem with the whole study in 10 seconds. A study that was done over several years analyzing 17 years of collected data. But it's wrong, because there is absolutely no way they thought to correct for human behavior, no matter what the summary says.

    Oh, hey, whats that, they controlled for income? Even spelled out that the effect of the ash borer was greater in wealthier regions thanks to the greater amounts of tree cover? Well, what do you know, scientists can sometimes actually know what they're talking about! Shocking, I know.

    Next time, you could even try reading the full paper [researchgate.net] before you comment and call them "amateur scientists." Especially when they, you know, have already thought of everything you've pointed out.

  • by pspahn ( 1175617 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @04:03PM (#43977683)

    Speaking of poking out eyes, I have long known that EAB (Emerald Ash Borer) has been affecting human health, and you would too if you watch much baseball.

    The death of ash due to EAB has caused a significant uptick in the amount of bats made from maple instead of ash. Maple doesn't have the same kind of durability that ash does, and what you end up with are bats that are easier to break. On any given night, you can see highlights of some pitcher nearly losing his face because a large chunk of maple is flying at him. You almost never saw this when bats where made exclusively from ash, as maple is simply more brittle and not as elastic.

    Save a pitcher, plant an ash!

  • That would be the *media's* fault for cherry-picking the language and the studies. If you ever really drill down into a study, you'll find a metric shit-tonne of ambiguous language the media turns into certainties.

  • Re:Bad science (Score:5, Informative)

    by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @04:29PM (#43977981)
    The data they collected is by county. There are 3143 counties in the US. The Ash borer problem only affected about 15 states over a known period of time. This has the potential to have very good data (I have not seen the actual study but did follow the link to summary). The time period they were looking at included the time Vioxx was on the market, so there's one interesting thing they must have seen - but that didn't correlate with which state had ash trees dying. No doubt there were other things present in the data, but that didn't correlate with the bug-affected areas. Remember, you can pull some bullshit thing out of your ass and say "not accounted for" but unless your bullshit correlates with the areas affected by the bugs and trees then it probably HAS been accounted for by the correlation statistics.

    Science is increasingly being used like a religion - even on slashdot. Use it to support the things you like and complain about it when it suggests something you disagree with, and either way don't bother to RTFA.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye