Modern life has evolved in such a way that most people in the developed world now live and work in cities. With the proliferation of air travel and the network of communication that most cities possess, it is unsurprising that the level of air pollution in cities is also on the up. What this means is that we are spending all of our time, both work and otherwise amid pollution.
Children growing up today represent an ‘indoor child generation’, with most of their activities taking place primarily in homes and schools, with chemically diverse environments. Despite its importance in human exposure terms, links between indoor air quality and public health is an under-researched area, with greater emphasis placed on outdoor air quality.
People in industrialised countries spend more than 80% of their lives indoors and according to statistics, more than 4 million people worldwide die prematurely as a result of indoor air pollution. Your air indoors is often a mix of outdoor-derived compounds (such as carbon dioxide and dust-like particles) and indoor-derived contaminants (such as toxins emitted from paints and detergents as well as fungal spores). How does this impact our overall health?
While we have to come up with global solutions on how we can change the way we live in which to cut down pollution, what are the small steps we can take to improve air quality in the home?
Research has indicated that houseplants can make a real change to homes, schools and workplaces. As well as having psychological benefits on mood, stress levels and productivity, house plants can help combat breathing problems by removing airborne pollutants and improving indoor air quality.
Plants can improve air quality by:
- Absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis
- Transpiring water vapour through microscopic leaf pores to increase humidity
- Passively absorbing pollutants on the external surfaces of leaves and on the plant root-soil system
While this has not been conclusively proven, some studies have indicated that the following plants may have a positive effect on air quality:
- Mother-in-law’s Tongue or Snake Plant – This is a low-maintenance plant that’s best placed in the bedroom as it takes in CO2 at night.
- Peace Lily – Effective at removing ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde, these pretty plants help to purify and dehumidify the air.
- Boston Fern – Excellent at removing formaldehyde from the air, these ferns are easy to grow if kept moist. But our horticultural team wouldn’t recommend them for the bedroom owing to new studies into the release of cancerous spores at night.
Other easy-to-grow houseplants that can help beat air pollution indoors include Madagascar Dragon Tree, India Rubber Tree/Rubber Plant and English/Common Ivy.