Trees, Radon and Negative Ion

this is a treeIt’s widely-known that trees emit oxygen into the atmosphere. What is less known – unless we’re researchers at Queensland University in Australia – is that trees also affect the airs’ electrical properties.

According to researchers, the air in our atmosphere has about a 50/50 mix of positive and negative ions. These ions are derived from radiated air molecules coming all the way from outer space, as well as radon being emitted from deep underground rocks and soil.

Typically, radon levels remain constant from place to place. But researchers “Down Under” discovered that in some wooded areas, radon concentration was double the normal (expected) amount.

Why is that? They found that radon was being absorbed by trees through groundwater and released into the air through natural transpiration. They also found that, in areas where trees with especially deep root systems (such as eucalyptus) were growing, there was even more radon, peaking at mid-day, when photosynthesis and transpiration were at their height.

If you aren’t a researcher and think that radon sounds like something from Star Trek, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. More radon means more negative ions, and more negative ions means less pollution — and hence, cleaner air. To make the story even better, negative ions improve how our lungs absorb oxygen.

What’s the bottom line for us? First of all, we benefit greatly from spending more time hanging out with trees. If that’s neither possible or simply too far away from Starbucks or wi-fi access, then the next best thing – as advocated by the Queensland researchers – is to plant more trees so there’s more radon to go around, and as such, more negative ions to help us all breathe easier.

Given the current rate that our “modern civilization” creates pollution-churning machines, devices and factories, let’s hope that there are enough shovels, soil and seedlings to go around — and radon, too — because planting trees is hard work!

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  • trr188

    I must be misreading this. Radon is the #2 cause, after tobacco use, of lung cancer. The EPA

  • trr188

    At certain levels, the EPA requires sellers to install radon remediation equipment in their homes be for transfer of title. I’m sure I’m missing something here.

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