ATHENS, GAAir 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
|Contact: Michael W. Neff|
American Society for Horticultural Science