- BY Troy Raska
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Indoor Plants in Air Cleaning: Going Green (thumb)
Indoor air quality (IAQ) can influence the health, hygiene and productivity of building occupants. Therefore, it’s important to have good air quality that is free from pollutants. Management of air quality in energy tight buildings is often tricky, time consuming and expensive. In recent years, people have utilized various methods and techniques such as air filtration and scrubbers to optimize IAQ. However, some methods for cleaning the air have not been given much professional consideration. One such method is cleaning the air with indoor plants. Using indoor plants to contribute to good IAQ is natural, simple, effective and environmentally friendly. It’s evident that some plants are very suitable for cleaning the air. Many plants intake obnoxious substances like benzene and release oxygen back into the environment.
Indoor Plant Studies
Recently, Dr. Stuart E. Strand and his team at the University of Washington produced genetically modified plants (GMPs), pothos ivy (Epipremnum aureum), to evaluate whether such plants can be used in cleaning volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of indoor environments. They have specifically explored the above plant to see if they could reduce (VOCs) in the air. The VOCs that were tested for were benzene and chloroform and the GMPs vastly outperformed the wild-type plants. The GMPs cleared out benzene by 4.7 times more than the wild-types and almost completely cleared out the chloroform after 6 days compared to no filtering of chloroform by the wild-types.
The use of plants to decrease VOCs in indoor air is not a recent development. There are several papers, including one by NASA from 1989, which show the positive effects of having houseplants. In their summary, they even go so far as to claim that the “plant system is one of the most promising means of alleviating the sick building syndrome associated with many new, energy-efficient buildings.” The paper looked at the reduction of benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, while there are other papers also showing the VOC reduction capabilities of plants.
While this could be a viable method of regulating IAQ, it may not be an option for everyone. A detailed and thorough investigation is warranted to select the plants used, as many plant species are capable of producing VOCs as an end product. Only plants capable of recycling obnoxious substances into life-friendly substances, such as oxygen and others, should be considered and encouraged for this purpose.
For more information on EDLab at Pure Air Services, Inc. please contact Dr. Rajiv Sahay, CIAQP, FIAS, at (800) 422-7873 x 304, or contact us via this website.