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Study of phytoremediation benefits of 86 indoor plants published; Japanese royal fern tops list for formaldehyde removal effectiveness

Date:
June 24, 2011
Source:
American Society for Horticultural Science
Summary:
Scientists determined the formaldehyde removal efficiency of a diverse cross-section of 86 indoor plant species. Ferns had the highest formaldehyde removal efficiency of the five classes of plants used in the experiments. Osmunda japonica (Japanese royal fern) was the most effective at removing formaldehyde of the species tested, proving 50 times more effective than the least-efficient species. All plants in the study were classified as excellent, intermediate, and poor based on formaldehyde removal efficiency.

Formaldehyde is a major contaminant of indoor air, originating from particle board, carpet, window coverings, paper products, tobacco smoke, and other sources. Indoor volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde can contribute to allergies, asthma, headaches, and a condition known as ''sick building syndrome." The concern is widespread; a 2002 report from the World Health Organization estimated that undesirable indoor volatiles represent a serious health problem that is responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths per year and 2.7% of the global burden of disease.

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Scientists have long known the benefits of using plants to absorb and metabolize gaseous formaldehyde. Phytoremediation -- the use of green plants to remove pollutants or render them harmless -- is seen as a potentially viable and environmentally significant means of improving the indoor air quality in homes and offices. A team of scientists from Korean's Rural Development Administration and the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia tested the efficiency of volatile formaldehyde removal in 86 species of plants representing five general classes (ferns, woody foliage plants, herbaceous foliage plants, Korean native plants, and herbs). The results of the extensive research were published in HortScience.

Phytoremediation potential was assessed by exposing the plants to gaseous formaldehyde in airtight chambers constructed of inert materials and measuring the rate of removal. Osmunda japonica (Japanese royal fern), Selaginella tamariscina (Spikemoss), Davallia mariesii (Hare's-foot fern), Polypodium formosanum, Psidium guajava (Guava), Lavandula (Sweet Lavender), Pteris dispar, Pteris multifida (Spider fern), and Pelargonium (Geranium) were the most effective species tested. Ferns had the highest formaldehyde removal efficiency of the five classes of plants tested, with Osmunda japonica determined to be most effective of all 86 species, coming in at 50 times more effective than the least (D. deremensis) efficient species.

"Based on the wide range of formaldehyde removal efficiency among the plants tested, we separated the species into three general groups: excellent, intermediate, and poor," said corresponding author Kwang Jin Kim. "The species classified as excellent are considered desirable for use in homes and offices where the formaldehyde concentration in the air is a concern. It is evident from our results that certain species have the potential to improve interior environments and, in so doing, the health and well-being of the inhabitants."


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. Kim, Kwang Jin, Jeong, Myeong Il, Lee, Dong Woo, Song, Jeong Seob, Kim, Hyoung Deug, Yoo, Eun Ha, Jeong, Sun Jin, Han, Seung Won, Kays, Stanley J., Lim, Young-Wook, Kim, Ho-Hyun. Variation in Formaldehyde Removal Efficiency among Indoor Plant Species. HortScience, 2010; 45: 1489-1495 [link]

Cite This Page:

American Society for Horticultural Science. "Study of phytoremediation benefits of 86 indoor plants published; Japanese royal fern tops list for formaldehyde removal effectiveness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623174134.htm>.
American Society for Horticultural Science. (2011, June 24). Study of phytoremediation benefits of 86 indoor plants published; Japanese royal fern tops list for formaldehyde removal effectiveness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623174134.htm
American Society for Horticultural Science. "Study of phytoremediation benefits of 86 indoor plants published; Japanese royal fern tops list for formaldehyde removal effectiveness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623174134.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

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