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Review of 100+ studies highlights eco-benefits for community health and well-being

TORONTO, MARCH 24, 2015 — Urban green spaces provide significant health benefits by filtering harmful pollutants from the air and providing cooling effects during extreme heat, according to a report released today by the David Suzuki Foundation. The report documents the impact natural urban spaces — from parkettes to green roofs and large natural spaces like the Ontario Greenbelt — can have on human health and well-being. Published in collaboration with the EcoHealth Ontario Research Working Group, the report analyzed 102 peer-reviewed scientific studies published over the past five years. It found that these ecological benefits are related to the size, quality and density of the green space.

"This report confirms that abundant urban green spaces are essential for our health," said Tara Zupancic, public health researcher and lead author of the report. "After reviewing more than 100 recent studies, we have concluded that communities that invest in vibrant urban green spaces can reap significant benefits. Protection from extreme temperatures and air pollution can reduce illness and even save lives."

Research shows that tens of thousands of Canadians die prematurely each year because of acute air pollution, and high summer temperatures lead to increased illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths, especially among older adults. As the Canadian population ages and extreme heat waves become more common across the country, urban green spaces can provide essential, natural protection.

The report examined various types and scales of green space, and found that urban green space can provide cooler, cleaner air at the site, neighbourhood and city level. Emerging evidence also suggests that closely spaced and connected smaller green spaces can provide greater cooling effects to adjacent urban areas than large individual parks with open grass areas.

"This report demonstrates the immense value in bringing nature to the city at all scales and the potential payoff for city agencies and designers that connect the dots between green spaces, creating green urban corridors," said Aryne Sheppard, David Suzuki Foundation. "That's why we support growing the Greenbelt into Mississauga and Toronto's ravines. Doing so would connect the dots between urban green spaces and to green spaces surrounding the GTA."

The report highlights the exceptional ability of trees to capture and filter air pollutants, including ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter and to reduce temperatures at street level and neighbourhood scale, particularly during hot seasons and times of day. The report also highlights growing evidence of disproportionate heat- and air-pollution-related health burdens in neighbourhoods with less green space and suggests that low-income inner-city neighbourhoods are generally more vulnerable.

"We hope this report will spark conversations about how to improve the quantity, quality and connectivity of green spaces in our communities, especially in vulnerable urban areas," Sheppard said.

The report is being released in conjunction with a pre-conference workshop today in Toronto, in association with The Ontario Public Health Convention.

For more information, please visit www.davidsuzuki.org, or contact: Jode Roberts, David Suzuki Foundation 647-456-9752 cell, jroberts@davidsuzuki.org

March 24, 2015
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2015/03/report-shows-urban-green-space-cuts-air-pollution-and-cools-the-city/