|Wednesday What’s New: Kudzu Vines and Ozone|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Wednesday, 02 June 2010|
Kudzu, an invasive plant native to Japan and southern China, has overtaken many parts of the southern US, has now been shown to contribute a significant source of the air pollutant ozone, commonly referred to as “smog”.
Manuel Lerdau, the University of Virginia professor of environmental sciences and biology who led the study, says that kudzu produces two chemicals, chemicals isoprene and nitric oxide, that combine with nitrogen in the air to form ozone. Ozone is the primary component in what we call smog, a significant cause of health problems in human populations including irritating the eyes, nose, and throat, and possibly causing asthama.
It may sound like science fiction, but it’s a serious matter. In fact Lerdau stated that the chemical reaction caused by kudzu leads to about a 50 percent increase in the number of days each year in which ozone levels exceed what the Environmental Protection Agency deems as unhealthy. In addition, reductions in ozone from automobile pollution control are in effect, cancelled out by the additional ozone released into the atmosphere as the result of the kudzu vine.
While all plants release chemicals that combine with atmospheric gases during the summer months, kudzu is a particular problem in that it grows about three times as fast as native plants. Although originally referred to as “the vine that ate the south” in recent years kudzu has expanded its range northward along the east coast into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Currently the federal government lists 22 states where kudzu is considered an invasive plant.
Articles source: Invasive kudzu is major factor in surface ozone pollution, study shows