Sick Building Syndrome
In the 1980’s NASA was looking into a future that included humans inhabiting space stations, and lunar bases. Maybe even distant planets. They were designing “bio-domes” – self-contained living systems. Their concern was not only how to generate sufficient oxygen.
They were also worried about the volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) given off by the completely synthetic environment of such stations. Things like formaldehyde and various derivatives of benzene are constantly given off by man-made insulation, carpets, paints, cleaners, and adhesives. Not good. Wouldn’t want to be couped-up with that stuff in a small space for a long time.
NASA wanted to know whether there are plants that can detoxify our air, and reduce levels of these VOC’s. NASA was worried that their astronauts would become ill with “the sick building syndrome” when confined to their “bio-dome”.
Plants Come to the Rescue for Astronauts
Working at NASA at the time, Dr. Wolverton tested common houseplants for the ability to detoxify our air. He was able to measure an improvement in the air in a 100-cubic-foot volume just from the presence of only 3 plants.
Subsequent studies concluded that plants could remove nearly 90% of formaldehyde within 24 hours. These studies have been reproduced elsewhere multiple times since the 1980’s.
Since that time, Dr. Wolverton has gone on to test hundreds of plants for their purifying abilities, and has published more than one book on air and water quality and purification. His consulting site is: http://www.wolvertonenvironmental.com/
Plants Detoxify the Air in Delhi, India
Around the same time that Dr. Wolverton was finding ways to purify water and air for future lunar bases, Kamal Meattle (rhymes with Beattle) was told by his doctors that the air in New Delhi was killing him (he has asthma), like 10,000 other asthmatics per year in Delhi.
[Aside: to get some sense of what air pollution does to the nose and sinuses, see my post on the human experiment.]
Meattle was determined to prove his doctors wrong. He used plants to clean the air in his home and office. Now, 15 years later, he is detoxifying the air in larger buildings. This is the link to the video of Kamal Meattle’s inspiring TED conference.
If you have not watched any of the TED lectures, take a minute to watch this one by Meattle. ALL of the TED talks are inspiring, including this one.
Bottom line: the right number of the right kinds of plants CAN purify the air in our homes and offices.
Meattle recommends these three plants: http://greenspaces.in/blog/ted09/
- Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
a. Nice for living areas
b. 4 shoulder-high plants per person
c. Works well in daytime
- Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
a. 6-8 waist-high plants per person
b. Converts CO2 to O2 at night
c. Best in bedroom
- Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum)
a. Excellent at removing VOC’s
b. Best grown in hydroponics
These three plants have worked well for Meattle. He tested these plants for 15 years in a building that is 20 years old, 50,000 sq ft, with over 1,200 plants purifying the air for the 300 people working there. According to Meattle, the Delhi government has rated this building to be the healthiest in Delhi.
By employee survey: there is 52% reduced eye irritation, 34% reduced lower respiratory symptoms, 24% reduced headaches, 20% reduced upper respiratory symptoms, and 10% reduction in Asthma. And, he reports, as a result of reduced sick-days, increased productivity! http://greenspaces.in/blog/ted09/
You’re Not Limited to Those 3 Plants
Based on Dr. Wolverton’s extensive research at NASA, we are not limited to those three plants.
To read about Dr. Wolverton’s studies with air-purifying plants, check out Wolverton’s books, on his site: http://www.wolvertonenvironmental.com/, and available on Amazon (affiliate link). Dr. Wolverton’s books are extremely well-reviewed on Amazon and elsewhere. The book that I link to here has ALL 5-star reviews.
The information in this blog post is just a part of the solutions that I covered in a previous post, “Stop Breathing, Your Air is Killing You (and what to do about it).”
Thanks for visiting, and see you here again. I appreciate your comments and questions. Keep ‘em coming. Please, “be excellent to one another.”
Best of health and success to you and your families.
Until next time, remember … you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose (unless you’re a boogor doctor :~D)
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Image Credit: “Money Plant” by Anneli Salo: http://bit.ly/gOtseM
For Creative Commons image use guidelines: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en
“10 Plants to Purify Your Air”: http://webecoist.com/2009/04/08/air-purifying-plants/ – nice resource, pics of the plants, too.
About the TED conference: http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/5
EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse, PO Box 37133, Washington, DC 20013-7133/(800)438-4318; Plants for Clean Air Council, 3458 Godspeed Road, Davidsonville, MD 21035/(410)956-9036.