Reducing Indoor Air Pollution With Houseplants – Headline Science
21
August

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , /


Indoor air pollution in your home or office
can cause health issues like dizziness, asthma, or allergies. The most common solution is
to install ventilation systems. But researchers may have found a cheaper, simpler option to
remove indoor air pollutants: houseplants. Vadoud Niri, the leader of study, explains
that buildings can have high levels of so-called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, like
acetone, benzene and formaldehyde that are emitted as gases. They can come from paints,
furniture, printers, cleaning supplies and even dry-cleaned clothes. Presenting his work at the 252nd National
Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Niri says that surrounding oneself with certain
house plants could combat the potentially harmful effects of VOCs. Niri and his team at the State University
of New York at Oswego compared the efficiency and rate of VOC removal of various plants.
They built a sealed chamber and monitored the concentrations of eight common VOCs over
several hours with and without five types of houseplants. Certain plants were better than others at
absorbing specific compounds. For example, all five plants were able to absorb acetone
— the pungent chemical in nail polish remover. But the Dracaena plant took up the most, around
94 percent of the chemical. The most effective VOC-scrubbing plant was
the bromeliad. For six out of the eight VOCs studied, it removed more than 80 percent of
the pollutants over a 12-hour period. Niri says the next step in the research is
to test these plants’ abilities in real-world settings. He eventually wants to put plants
in a nail salon over the course of several months to see whether they can reduce the
amount of acetone workers are exposed to. For more on the latest chemistry headlines,
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6 thoughts on “Reducing Indoor Air Pollution With Houseplants – Headline Science

  1. How many plants were in each chamber? Just one plant of the species being tested, or multiple plants of the species being tested?

  2. Important to know: If you want to get the whole air purifying benefit of these plants, you have to ventilate their root system. Most of them are from the deserts and have themselves specialized in turning pollutants like Formaldehyde, Benzene or Toluene into useful nutrients without any residue. By bringing these pollutants directly to the root system (using the soil as a filter), they can absorb them much, much better.

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