Dr. Kamal Meattle researched the effects of indoor plants on the office work environment, a task he embarked upon after suffering deleterious health effects beginning with his job at an office building in New Delhi, India, a populous city noted for the poor quality of its air.
Dr. Meattle’s study over the years proved that plants can increase the oxygen content of the air in the office environment, as well as decrease a series of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethane and ammonia. Blood oxygen increased 1% in study participants, and productivity increased 20%, as Dr. Meattle discusses in the TED video below:
50 Air Purifying Plants
The three plants used in the Delhi offices, the areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), the money plant (Epipremnum aureum) and the mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) provided the following benefits:
- Lowered eye irritation 52%
- Lowered respiratory symptoms 34%
- Lowered headaches 12%
- Lowered lung impairment 24%
- Decreased asthma 9%
- Increased blood oxygen 1% in 42% of workers after 10 hours in the building
- Decreased energy requirements 15% due to less need for air cycling
- Increased productivity 20%
These are not the only plants that give similar results. A former NASA scientist, Dr. Wolverton, conducted research in the use of plants for maintaining livable environments for astronauts during space missions, and has put that knowledge to use for improving the livability of home and office spaces. He has written a book with a list of 50 plants that can be used as substitutes for the 3 plants discussed in the video, including those that better fit into a vertical garden motif.
Sick Building Syndrome is the name given to the ailments commonly found in poorly ventilated houses and offices that result from various VOCs and irritants that come with our current lifestyle . A bevy of chemicals get released by the products of our modern construction and decor such as carpets, furniture and building materials, and are then trapped by well-insulated or closed ventilation systems. Add to this the use of various products that release VOCs in the home such as paint thinners, cleaners, degreasers, even clothes that have been dry cleaned. The ability to remove these gasses from the air and provide the aesthetic benefits of a lush green environment makes adding plants,whether as part on a vertical garden or just placed on the floor in pots, to the indoor home or office practically an imperative.