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Plants blamed for deaths during heat waves

Posted on Wednesday, 31 July, 2013 | Comment icon 17 comments | News tip by: seeder

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Plants could indrectly lead to health problems and even death during periods of extreme hot weather.

The surprising claim is based on the role that plants play in absorbing ozone from the air, a key factor in mitigating pollution. Researchers discovered that while plants normally absorb ozone through small holes in their leaves, during a heat wave they tend to close these holes, reducing the amount of pollution that the process removes from the air. Indirectly, this can lead to respiratory problems in humans and can even be fatal to those with pre-existing conditions.

A study of a particularly hot UK summer in 2006 suggested that up to 460 extra people died because of the loss of ozone absorption by plants during the heat wave. People with existing cardiovascular or respiratory ailments are most at risk during these times.

"A study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that during heat waves, plants tend to absorb less pollution from the air."

  View: Full article |  Source: National Geographic

  Discuss: View comments (17)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by Babe Ruth on 31 July, 2013, 19:05
We're trying, one chemical at a time, clearing one acre at a time.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Purifier on 31 July, 2013, 22:11
Don't worry, we won't totally succeed. Nature will drop the smackdown on our ass near the end. The planet takes care of itself.
Comment icon #10 Posted by AliveInDeath7 on 31 July, 2013, 23:00
When I read the title, I thought of "The Happening." *shrugs* They can't be expected to clean up our mess.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Mikko-kun on 1 August, 2013, 4:55
Purifier, you're being too pessimistic. Would it really be impossible for us to wipe all other life on earth and live on totally artificial things? We already have 3D printer and it's that far from printing food from scrap, total scrap, prime substances. After that, we can just burn everything and feel good about a clean and orderly world. We shouldn't dodge our part in this world. We live here, we take from this world, we take from living things and kill them to sustain ourselves. Because of this we shouldn't be ignorant about the possible consequences in long terms but look a... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by Purifier on 1 August, 2013, 6:58
I was referring to the forces of nature, Mikko-Kun. I believe earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and tornados will long wipe us out before we get a chance to strip this planet totally of life. And if those things don't get us...there's always the asteroid scenario, in which we go the way of the dinosaurs. How about a fast killing disease? Or worse, nuclear war by our own hand. See the planet or nature has a way of thinning the herd, time and time again in history, you see that with animals that have come and gone over the ages. And we human animals, even as smart as we are, there is ... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by Mikko-kun on 1 August, 2013, 7:59
You can always hope, there's a good chance those things do a good work and clean up for us. I think we have a potential to be an exception though, only if we'd use that potential. We could dig mines Fallout-style, ever played that game? The same thing, but make the mines a few kilometres below the surface, under a mountain if you wanna play safe. Though having that mass over your head ready to collapse doesn't sound safe, granted. Many of those kinda mines scattered all over the world so at least one might survive. Bring all seeds and genebanks and such there. Food can be preserved... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Doug1o29 on 1 August, 2013, 14:20
This is a surprise because ....? Doug
Comment icon #15 Posted by spud the mackem on 1 August, 2013, 16:45
I like plants, and one of our Royals is said to "talk to trees". Err !
Comment icon #16 Posted by deslin on 2 August, 2013, 22:01
Wouldn't it technically be humans that should be blamed in this case? I imagine some plants have reacted to long periods of high heat by doing less of what they normally do without any real harm to the world around them for a very long time now. However when massive amounts of pollution are introduced, that creates a problem.

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