September 08, 2008

Trees on the playground = healthier kids

By Jared Liu

Kudos to every local organizer who has built a playspace! Our kids need safe and healthy places to play, and the Alliance for Community Trees supports KaBOOM! in that effort.

Now we want to challenge you to think about safer and healthier places for kids. We're talking about greening playspaces. I know that trees and landscaping are often considered "extras," and are first on the budget chopping block, but here are some reasons to reconsider trees as critical to your playspace:

Incidences of childhood asthma are lower in neighborhoods where there are more trees.

A 2004 study of 6 million children published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that children in poor neighborhoods where there are significantly fewer trees have five times less lung function and higher school absences.

Trees provide the oxygen we breathe. One acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe each day and eliminates as much carbon dioxide from the air as is produced from driving a car 26,000 miles.
Tree leaves also help trap and remove tiny particles of soot and dust which otherwise damages human lungs, particularly concerning in children who breathe more oxygen than adults.

Incidences of childhood melanoma are lower in children who have less direct exposure to UV rays.

Although melanoma is thought to occur rarely in children, 2002 statistics from the National Cancer Institute find that pediatric melanoma affects about 500 children annually, which is triple what it was in 1982. Reasons for the increase include the depletion of the ozone layer and excessive sun exposure, both of which are mitigated with trees.

Tree canopies have been losing ground to unplanned development for the past 25 years. So is it any surprise that environmental health concerns are also on the increase?

Childhood melanoma prevention organizations recommend staying inside on high-UV index days, but we believe that planting trees at playspaces is a better solution. Trees provide critical shade. Trees provide an environment that is both cool and healthy at playspaces.

These are just some of the benefits of trees. However, planting and caring for trees may not be as easy as it sounds. Luckily, there is likely already a tree organization in your community who can answer these questions. Ask them to help in early in the playspace planning stages. You can find the one nearest to you by visiting the Alliance for Community Trees at

The Alliance for Community Trees (ACT) is a national alliance of organizations dedicated to improving the health and livability of cities through tree planting and care. With 150 affiliates in 40 states and Canada, ACT engages volunteers to improve the environment in urban areas, where 83 percent of people live. As director of programs, Jared Liu coordinates grants, policy, and communications.

green, side projects