Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

What can trees tell us about the air we breathe at home?

July 31, 2018

The air in houses can be affected by bad stuff, called contaminants. Sometimes harmful chemicals enter the air in buildings from nearby contaminated soil and groundwater through cracks or gaps in the foundation – a process known as vapor intrusion. This poses some risk to our health because we spend so much of our time indoors. Currently it’s difficult and expensive to figure out if vapor intrusion is happening. That’s why we wanted to see if trees can serve as indicators for vapor intrusion. We collected samples from 109 trees in a contaminated area in a Nebraska town and
analyzed them for tetrachloroethene (PCE), a chemical used mostly as a cleaner and to make other chemicals. When comparing our results with the data the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had collected, we found that trees are good indicators of vapor intrusion.

Publication Year 2018
Title What can trees tell us about the air we breathe at home?
Authors Jordan L. Wilson, V.A. Samaranayake, Matthew A. Limmer, Joel Burken
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science Journal for Kids
Index ID 70198345
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Midwest Water Science Center