Forest Service released a new study on air quality that involves the monitoring of toxic moss. The study covers data from Portland.
The researchers created an interactive map with the results of their investigation, showing the levels of toxicity all around the state.
The biologists examined moss samples taken from 300 different places in Portland. They focused on 22 elements which may be contained in moss, including six metals that are highly toxic to humans.
As moss can accumulate pollutants from the air, scientists used it as a guide to air quality. The final objective of the study was to create a map with pollution hotspots and to identify the toxic moss.
The researchers used histograms, dot maps and summary statistics to explain the importance of their data findings. More than fifteen metals were found to have high concentrations, and their presence in the moss composition was considered to be a pollution indicator.
The list of chemicals included cadmium, nickel, lead and arsenic, all metals that are considered to be high priority toxic substances.
Even though the study reveals pollution spots, its result cannot be interpreted in terms of air pollution. The authors say there is no clear evidence that toxic moss and toxic air are being connected. The study tries to suggest a correlation, even if a causality relation wasn’t proved yet.
The forest researchers used data coming from a monitoring operation in 2013, and they are now interested in gathering more recent information in order to have more accurate predictions.
One of the most relevant topics raised by the study was the analysis of cadmium concentration, a chemical element that is listed as a hazardous substance. Cadmium is released into the environment by fossil fuel combustion, industrial production, waste incineration, or by the use of phosphate fertilizers. Cadmium can produce renal abnormalities, osteoporosis, and cancer.
The study on moss components showed the presence of four metals that had a significantly higher concentration: cobalt, iron, aluminum and chromium.
For example, cobalt, that can cause lung problems, had been found in maximum concentrations in the moss samples from Cully. Thus, the forest researchers decided to start an air monitoring study in that area because the presence of elevated levels of metals in the moss could indicate higher air pollution.
Although two of the six metals that were found are not a hazard for health, their presence could also be taken as a pollution indicator. The toxic moss was found near an industrialized area, and scientists believe that it was contaminated by elements resulting from air pollution.
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