Houseplants can help improve indoor air quality

Houseplants can help improve indoor air quality

Fall has arrived and somehow I have more houseplants than I started with in the spring.

As the temperatures drop, I find myself searching my house for bright windows and plates to place under pots. With a house full of plants, you might think that this must be good for our air quality – especially when we shut ourselves inside during the winter.

But do houseplants help improve our air quality?
In the 1980s, workers occupying highly insulated and enclosed buildings began to complain of various health problems such as “itchy eyes, skin rashes, drowsiness, respiratory and sinus congestion, headaches and other allergy-related symptoms.” Scientists have come up with a name for this phenomenon, which is sick building syndrome.
There are two main contributors to indoor air pollution. Humans are contributors to indoor air pollution. Think of the cabin of an airliner. We exhale carbon dioxide, shed skin and hair cells, sneeze, cough, etc. When we are outside, humans are embedded in a complex web of life that manages these by-products.
Isolate a group of people in a small industrial space, and you’re going to need some serious ventilation.
The second contributor to indoor air pollution is volatile organic compounds. Many modern home furnishings emit volatile organic compounds. Benzene and formaldehyde are examples of VOCs widely used in the United States. For example, homes with gas ranges or an attached garage have higher levels of benzene because it is found in natural gas and gasoline, and therefore in cooking and automobile exhaust.
Air filters can eliminate the bulk of human pollutants, but it is difficult to rid a home of trace elements of VOCs. This is where indoor plants come into play. Numerous studies have shown that many indoor plants can filter out VOCs and other indoor air pollutants.
A study conducted at the State University of New York-Oswego examined five common houseplants and their efficiency in extracting VOCs from the air. The study announced that dracaena is the most effective houseplant at absorbing acetone, a commonly used volatile organic compound found in products such as nail polish remover. However, bromeliads performed best at removing six of the eight VOCs studied in their laboratory.
Recent reviews of previous research suggest that the benefits of fresh air for indoor plants are not quite what they seem. Previous research involved small, closed rooms. It is estimated that to scale up the performance observed in the laboratory to an average home of 1,500 square feet, the homeowner would need 680 plants.

Another issue is the number of VOCs that indoor plants in the home or office are exposed to. A study at the University of Georgia measured “over 180 different airborne compounds” in homes in Athens, Georgia. These chemicals exist in different concentrations and mix and react in an almost infinite number of ways. Most published research focuses on about ten different VOCs.
Does this mean you should throw pothos in the compost?
of course not. Houseplants have been routinely proven to improve our mental health. Those who live or work in buildings such as hospitals, extended care facilities, offices, and single or multifamily buildings report better productivity, learning, and reduced anxiety and depression when indoor plants are present.
As for me, there is no place for me in my house. Does anyone have a spare greenhouse lying around?

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