Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 12:30 pm

There is increasing evidence that traffic air pollution wreaks havoc on our health, but does planting trees around our homes really help?

Traffic air pollution has been linked to a higher risk of asthma, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, poor mental health, increase rates of violence and the list goes on…(click here to read more).

So what can you do if you live or work near a busy road?

Three green roadside ideas

To find the best way to reduce traffic air pollution, Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) researchers compared three green roadside ideas or infrastructure – trees, hedges and a combination of trees with hedges and shrubs.

You might think of planting trees along the roadside, but according to their findings, you should add hedges and shrubs too.

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Researchers tested six roadside locations in Guildford in the UK where the green infrastructure was between one and two metres from the road.

Trees aren’t enough, but hedges help

They found that roadsides with only trees showed no positive influence on pollution reduction at breathing height (usually between 1.5 and 1.7m), as the tree canopy was too high to provide a barrier/filtering effect for road-level tailpipe emissions.

However, roadsides that had hedges cut black carbon air pollution by up to 63 per cent.

The hedges only – and a combination of hedges and trees – emerged as the most effective green infrastructure in improving air quality behind them, under different wind directions.

“Many millions of people across the world live in urban areas where the pollution levels are also the highest. The best way to tackle pollution is to control it at the source. However, reducing exposure to traffic emissions in near-road environments has a big part to play in improving health and well-being for city-dwellers,” says Professor Prashant Kumar, the senior author of the study and the founding Director of the GCARE at the University of Surrey.

Prof Kumar says the study highlights the important role that strategically placed roadside hedges can play in reducing pollution exposure for pedestrians, cyclists and people who live close to roads.

Source: University of Surrey via