Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Common Plants Can Eliminate Indoor Air Pollutants

Date:
November 5, 2009
Source:
American Society for Horticultural Science
Summary:
Air quality in homes and offices is becoming a major health concern. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in indoor air emanate from adhesives, furnishings, clothing, and solvents and have been shown to cause illnesses in people. Researchers tested ornamental indoor plants for their ability to remove harmful VOCs from indoor air. The study concluded that simply introducing common ornamental plants into indoor spaces has the potential to significantly improve the quality of indoor air.

Hemigraphis alternata, or purple waffle plant, one of the highest rated ornamentals for removing indoor air pollutants.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Stanley Kays

Air quality in homes, offices, and other indoor spaces is becoming a major health concern, particularly in developed countries where people often spend more than 90% of their time indoors. Surprisingly, indoor air has been reported to be as much as 12 times more polluted than outdoor air in some areas. Indoor air pollutants emanate from paints, varnishes, adhesives, furnishings, clothing, solvents, building materials, and even tap water.

A long list of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs [including benzene, xylene, hexane, heptane, octane, decane, trichloroethylene (TCE), and methylene chloride], have been shown to cause illnesses in people who are exposed to the compounds in indoor spaces. Acute illnesses like asthma and nausea and chronic diseases including cancer, neurologic, reproductive, developmental, and respiratory disorders are all linked to exposure to VOCs. Harmful indoor pollutants represent a serious health problem that is responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths each year, according to a 2002 World Health Organization report.

Stanley J. Kays, Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia, was the lead researcher of a study published in HortScience that tested ornamental indoor plants for their ability to remove harmful VOCs from indoor air. According to Kays, some indoor plants have the ability to effectively remove harmful VOCs from the air, and not only have the ability to improve our physical health, but also have been shown to enhance our psychological health. Adding these plants to indoor spaces can reduce stress, increase task performance, and reduce symptoms of ill health.

The ability of plants to remove VOCs is called "phytoremediation." To better understand the phytoremediation capacity of ornamental plants, the research team tested 28 common indoor ornamentals for their ability to remove five volatile indoor pollutants. "The VOCs tested in this study can adversely affect indoor air quality and have a potential to seriously compromise the health of exposed individuals," Kays explained. "Benzene and toluene are known to originate from petroleum-based indoor coatings, cleaning solutions, plastics, environmental tobacco smoke, and exterior exhaust fumes emanating into the building; octane from paint, adhesives, and building materials; TCE from tap water, cleaning agents, insecticides, and plastic products; and alpha-pinene from synthetic paints and odorants."

During the research study, plants were grown in a shade house for eight weeks followed be acclimatization for twelve weeks under indoor conditions before being placed in gas-tight glass jars. The plants were exposed to benzene, TCE, toluene, octane, and alpha-pinene, and air samples were analyzed. The plants were then classified as superior, intermediate, and poor, according to their ability to remove VOCs.

Of the 28 species tested, Hemigraphis alternata (purple waffle plant), Hedera helix (English ivy), Hoya carnosa (variegated wax plant), and Asparagus densiflorus (Asparagus fern) had the highest removal rates for all of the VOCs introduced. Tradescantia pallida (Purple heart plant) was rated superior for its ability to remove four of the VOCs.

The study concluded that simply introducing common ornamental plants into indoor spaces has the potential to significantly improve the quality of indoor air. In addition to the obvious health benefits for consumers, the increased use of indoor plants in both ''green'' and traditional buildings could have a tremendous positive impact on the ornamental plant industry by increasing customer demand and sales.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Horticultural Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yang, Dong Sik, Pennisi, Svoboda V., Son, Ki-Cheol, Kays, Stanley J. Screening Indoor Plants for Volatile Organic Pollutant Removal Efficiency. HortScience, Published online 1 August 2009; in print 44: 1377-1381 (2009)

Cite This Page:

American Society for Horticultural Science. "Common Plants Can Eliminate Indoor Air Pollutants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091104140816.htm>.
American Society for Horticultural Science. (2009, November 5). Common Plants Can Eliminate Indoor Air Pollutants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091104140816.htm
American Society for Horticultural Science. "Common Plants Can Eliminate Indoor Air Pollutants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091104140816.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins