By Jasmine Gurm, BBA
We all know how to take care of ourselves when we’re feeling under the weather – we rest, take our vitamin C & D and drink plenty of fluids.=
But what do we do when our homes become sick? Yes, you read correctly. Our homes can in fact become sick, and the very place that should be our safe haven, can become hazardous to our health, and a breeding ground for chronic illness.
This is because our homes can get what is known as “sick building syndrome”. Sick building syndrome occurs as a result of the deterioration of our indoor air quality caused by the accumulation of toxic gases known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs are released from common household goods, including everything from your flooring and appliances to shampoo and food (Williams, 2012).
In addition to being carcinogenic and neurotoxic, long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to other serious health implications including, but not limited to, everything from respiratory dysfunction, genetic abnormalities, and dermatitis (Williams, 2012).
Moreover, studies have shown that the concentrations of pollutants such as formaldehyde, styrene and biological pollutants (bacteria, viruses, moulds etc.) are often present in significantly higher concentrations – reaching anywhere from 2 – 50 fold higher concentrations – indoors versus outdoors, due to lack of ventilation and confined/tightly-sealed indoor spaces (Health Canada, 2011 & the California Environmental Protection Agency, 2006).
The widespread use of VOCs in the manufacturing of our everyday items makes exposure to them largely unavoidable, whether at home or in the workplace. Fortunately, mother-nature has equipped us with a powerful arsenal, in the form of plants, capable of effectively removing these toxins from our environment.
Much in the way that plants are able to absorb CO2 from our atmosphere and break it down through photosynthesis to use it as plant food and release precious O2 back into our environment, plants are able to do the same with VOCs. Having established a long-standing symbiotic relationship with various microbes, plants are able to utilize VOC breakdown products as an energy source; thereby, reducing VOC concentrations in our environment and improving overall air quality.
In 1989, a study conducted by NASA, led by Dr. B.C Wolverton, used experimental, sealed-off chambers to evaluate the efficacy of a variety of household plants in their ability to remove toxic substances such as formaldehyde from indoor air. Results showed that certain plants are markedly effective in reducing the presence of toxins in indoor environments, leading to improved overall indoor air quality.
According to Wolverton Environmental, the household plants reported as among the best plants for removing the most common indoor pollutant – formaldehyde – are listed below:
- Boston fern
- Dwarf date palm
- Bamboo palm
- Janet Craig
- English ivy
- Weeping fig
- Peace lily
- Areca palm
- Corn plant
- Lady palm
By incorporating the plants most effective at removing the most prevalent toxin in indoor air, Wolverton Environmental hypothesizes that the other harmful chemicals will be absorbed along with formaldehyde.
According to Health Canada, Canadians spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, making indoor air pollution a serious public health concern. The systemic-wide implications of long-term exposure to toxins within the home poses an imminent threat to human health, but by simply adding household plants throughout your home, you can naturally and effectively restore the health of your home and protect the health of your family.
Wolverton Environmental Services, Inc.
Wolverton, B.C; Johnson, A. 1989. Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement. National Aeronatuics and Space Administration. ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/…/19930073077_1993073077.pd… – United States
Williams, R. M. 2012. Health Risks & Environmental Issues – Plants Purify Indoor Air. Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine. 345, 36-38.
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