Green for Good
Louisville Metro Government’s Office of Sustainability and its partners embarked on an exciting project called Green for Good: to strategically unite interrelated sustainability efforts and to connect the dots between investing in greening strategies and quantifiable health impacts. The Office partnered with Hyphae Design Lab, Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil, University of Louisville and Washington University in St. Louis to leverage their innovative work around assessing environmental conditions and human health risks. Extensive research supports the fact that human health is significantly impacted by the built and natural environment. Exposure to vegetation is reported to reduce stress, improve health perceptions and protect against cardiopulmonary disease. This effect is thought to be due in part to associated reductions in exposure to air pollution; various types of vegetation are known to capture air pollution.
The overall goal of the Green for Good project was to examine how vegetation may be utilized to reduce exposure to traffic pollutants and to test the idea that a greener neighborhood is a healthier neighborhood. The project was conducted at St. Margaret Mary School and a vegetated buffer (biofilter) was installed and configured to reduce exposure of the students and staff to traffic related air pollutants. Air sampling was conducted before and after the planting to see how the trees affected pollution levels. A cohort of 60 students and 24 adults volunteered to provide blood and urine samples both before and after the planting. The samples were evaluated for levels of circulating angiogenic cells and immune cells as well as other health indicators.
The air monitoring data showed that under certain conditions, particulate pollution was 60% lower immediately behind the biofilter. The health monitoring showed that among the study participants, levels of circulating angiogenic cells were higher after the biofilter was planted. These cells keep blood vessels healthy. When a person has higher levels of these cells, they have a lower risk of heart disease. We also found that levels of immune cells were lower after planting.