Chemicals used in construction and decorating may be toxic to some people with “Multiple chemical sensitivities.” Buildings with poor air circulation and/or which do not have windows can allow toxic gases to build up and make people feel sick, called “sick building” syndrome. Green plants can be effective at removing some of the toxic gases from the air and make the home and office more environmentally friendly.
Plants are wonderful accents, offering a refreshing focal point for the eyes. Plants are not only relaxing and healthful to look at, they help to clean the air of chemicals and make breathing easier.
Many people live and work in buildings that are filled with toxic formaldehyde, a substance emitted by modern building materials. Formaldehyde gas is emitted by building materials, plywood, curtains, carpeting and adhesives. Formaldehyde is also a component of latex paint and other chemicals used in home building.
Most people can tolerate formaldehyde gas, but some people suffer from sensitivities to the gas. “Multiple chemical sensitivity” is an allergy or sensitivity to the multitude of chemical compounds used in building and decorating. “Sick building syndrome” is a term used to describe a building that has an overload of toxic gases.
Modern building methods are tight and do not allow much fresh air into the building. Many office buildings have no windows at all, or have windows that cannot be opened to even let in fresh air. The lack of air exchange allows chemical gases to build up and can make people feel sick.
Some of the medical conditions associated with “sick building syndrome” are asthma, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes and allergies. People who have “multiple chemical sensitivities” may feel may feel wiped out if someone paints a wall or hallway in the office.
People who are sensitive to formaldehyde do best by avoiding living or working in buildings that used chemicals in construction, but that is not always easy to do.
Researchers have been studying the ability of green plants to reduce levels of formaldehyde in the air. The National Horticultural Research Institute in Korea has been comparing the absorption rate of two different houseplants; the Weeping Fig and Fatsia Japonica which is an evergreen shrub. Results of their research were published in the Journal of American Society for Horticultural Science.
Plants were able to removed 80% of the formaldehyde from the air within a four hour period. Plants were effective at removing formaldehyde, whether they were whole plants or parts of plants. The plants were more effective during the day, which was probably because the leaves closed up a night.
If you are worried about toxic gas in the home or office, consider getting a few plants and placing them in the environment to refresh your eyes and the air.
American Society for Horticultural Science Indoor plants can reduce formaldehyde levelsAir quality improves when live plants introduced. Press Release February 17, 2009, EurekAlert.
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