Houseplants can cut air pollution in our homes, offices

Houseplants can cut air pollution in our homes, offices
Courtesy: Reuters

Researchers have discovered that ordinary potted plants can help reduce air pollution in homes and offices. Gardeners and pot plant collectors probably don't need an excuse to buy more plants.

But if you do need a reason to add more greenery to your living room, here's all the justification you need – researchers have discovered that ordinary potted plants can help reduce air pollution in homes and offices.

Experts from the University of Birmingham and Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) tested three houseplants commonly found in U.K. homes; peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii), corn plant (Dracaena fragrans), and fern arum (Zamioculcas zamiifolia).

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After a series of experiments monitoring the exposure of the plants to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), the scientists reported that they could be able to reduce the common pollutant by as much as 20 per cent.

The performance of the plants was not dependent on the environment, for example, whether it was in light or dark conditions, and whether the soil was wet or dry.

"The plants we chose were all very different from each other, yet they all showed strikingly similar abilities to remove NO2 from the atmosphere," said lead researcher Dr Christian Pfrang. "This is very different from the way indoor plants take up CO2 in our earlier work, which is strongly dependent on environmental factors such as nighttime or daytime, or soil water content."

Furthermore, the team considered how plants may be able to improve air quality in workspaces.

In a poorly ventilated small office with high levels of air pollution, they calculated that five houseplants would reduce NO2 levels by around 20 per cent. In a larger space, the effect would be smaller – 3.5 per cent, though this could be increased by adding more plants.

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"We don't think the plants are using the same process as they do for CO2 uptake, in which the gas is absorbed through stomata - tiny holes - in the leaves," he added. "There was no indication, even during longer experiments, that our plants released the NO2 back into the atmosphere, so there is likely a biological process taking place also involving the soil the plant grows in - but we don't yet know what that is."

Full study results have been published in ‘Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health’.

(Cover Media/Reuters)

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