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.
The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/44/5/1377
Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at ashs.org
Michael W. Neff | EurekAlert!
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy