Is Your Indoor Air Really Clean?
If you feel staying indoors, shielded from the outside dust and pollution, is keeping your lungs clear of toxins, well its time for a reality check.
Indoor air we breathe on a daily basis looks clean (yes you do take special care to keep it that way) but contains a concoction of toxic gases making it a dangerous gas chamber. We are exposed to a range of indoor air contaminants daily like chemicals off-gassing, bacteria, pesticides, detergent fumes, mold, small fibres, toxins etc., mostly from cooling and cleaning agents. While cleaning takes care of eliminating some of these (albeit superficially and visibly), it cannot clear away many of the air contaminants. As always, the best way to fight off these pollutants is by using nature’s best purifier- plants.
Plants- Natural Purifiers
Plants have, since evolution, been the biggest source of oxygen and the most telling climate control agent. There has always been a debate on whether plants in cramped indoor spaces can be beneficial to air we breathe. But many studies, over the years, have attested to the super air-purifying powers of plants. To name a few:
. Pennsylvania State University: A research team from the univeristy published the results of a study on the effects of three common houseplants on indoor ozone levels in HortTechnology. They released ozone into two chambers, one with houseplants and one without; they found the ozone depletion rates were higher in the chambers that contained plants. Ozone frequently infiltrates indoor environments and is the main component of air pollution and smog. Toxic effects include pulmonary edema, inflammation, and reduction of lung function.
. NASA study: In 1989, a two-year study by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America found certain tropical plants commonly used as houseplants were effective in removing formaldehyde, trichloroethane and benzene from the air and replacing it with breathable oxygen. Though all plants provide some benefit to air quality, the tropical ones proved more effectual at removing gas and chemicals.
. University of Technology, Sydney: Studies over the past five years found that installing small groups of the Janet Craig and Sweet Chico plants in offices reduced total levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by up to 75 percent and dust by 20%. The results were consistent over the 5-12 weeks of study. Researchers estimate that six or more plants in a 1,200 to 1,500 square-foot house could achieve significant reduction of indoor air pollution.
. Washington State University: Research found that dust was reduced as much as 20% when a number of plants were placed around the perimeter of a computer lab and small office for one week.
Indoor Pollutants That Are Toxic For Health
These pollutants contribute to the ‘sick building syndrome’, which causes symptoms like allergies, sensory irritation of the eyes and nose, headaches and fatigue through to nervous-system disorders and nonspecific hypersenstivity reactions.
. Volatile Organic Compounds (benzene and trichloroethylene or TCE)
. Airborne biological pollutants
. Carbon monoxide
. Nitrogen oxides.
. Pesticides and disinfectants (phenols)
Best Places To Have Plants:
Better quality of oxygen is required to increase productivity, increase mental awareness, and clarity. Research suggests the following indoor spaces that can benefit the most from our green friends:
. Bedrooms are an excellent place for plants as you spend a considerable amount of time sleeping and relaxing.
. Study and TV rooms that are loaded with electrical equipments are a good choice as electrical equipments also tend to pollute air.
. Areas that have high fume potential, like the kitchen can benefit from herb plants and art workshops can benefit from flowering plants for both purifying and inspirational purposes.
. Office spaces can greatly benefit from the addition of plants as studies indicate, employees feel better motivated to work around plants.
Choose The Right Plants:
Size, aesthetics, maintenance, sunlight requirement, oxygen output, etc. determine selection of the right plant for your enclosed space. Not all plants are suited for corporate environment and can actually obstruct working spaces if planned improperly. Here’s a list of effective purifiers adhering to most requirements at home and work:
. Areca Palm is also called “Butterfly Palm”. Specimen plants can reach 10 to 12 foot in height but requires pruning.
. Snake plants are very resilient. They are great at removing most toxins and grow well where other plants might wither and die (like a hot windowsill). They also make good bathroom and dark space plants.
. Christmas Cactus is a plant that does well in rooms that are darkened in the evening, such as the TV/ game rooms.
. Spider plant is great for removing formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. It can be a good office plant.
. Bamboo palm is also a good carbon monoxide and formaldehyde remover. They are good for rooms with lot of electrical equipments as they prefer bright and indirect light.
. Gerbera daisy removes trichloroethylene and this flowering plant makes a beautiful addition to any room.
. Lady Palm is one of the easiest plam to grow and adapts well to most interiors.
. Rubber plant grows very well indoors and prefers semi-sun lighting. Avoid direct sunlight, especially in summer and keep it slighty moist in winter.
. Dracaena “Janet Craig” is easy to grow and do not require much sunlight as they can adapt to lower light levels if watering is reduced.
. Philodendron is the most durable of all house plants. They prefer medium intensity light but will tolerate low light. However, direct sun will burn the leaves and stunt plant growth. The plant is available in climbing and non-climbing varieties.
. Dwarf Date Palm is a hardy, drought-tolerant and long lived plant. It needs to be placed in a bright spot which is free of drafts. It should not be placed near children’s play areas as its sharp needle-like spines can easily penetrate skin or protective clothing.
. Ficus Alii grows indoors quite easily and resists insects. It prefers a humid environment and low to medium light. They should not be placed near heating or air conditioning vents, or drafts because this could cause leaf loss.
. Boston Fern has feathery ferns and are displayed as a hanging plant. It prefers bright indirect sunlight.
. Peace Lily is a compact plant and easy to maintain. It prefers indirect sunlight and high humidity, but needs to be placed out of drafts.
Plants to Avoid:
Avoid having toxic plants like nightshade, creeping charlie, foxglove, oleander, sago plant, privet, rhododendron, umbrella plant, ripple ivy, sweet pea, vinca, and spider mum. These plants may cause allergic reactions with skin contact and poisonous when consumed and must be never be near babies, children or pets.