Plants blamed for deaths during heat waves
July 31, 2013 | 16 comments
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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.
Source: National Geographic
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