With the steady rise of environmental pollutants in the city, we have become increasingly aware of the importance of air quality. However, with the rise of modern city living, we are spending most of our time indoors. Although outdoor air pollution has been recognised as a major environmental risk to our health, very little attention has been paid to the toxic contaminants we encounter in our homes and workplaces.
Like the city’s streets, our home environment is equally susceptible to sources of harmful particulate matter and gaseous pollutants. This includes dust, smoke, particles generated from cooking, cleaning products and furnishings.
THE CLEAN AIR STUDY
In their highly publicised 1989 ‘Clean Air Study‘, NASA scientists discovered certain species of plants were an effective solution to filtering indoor air. Inspired by the potential of nature’s ecology, we have focussed on natural and alternative methods of cleaning the air around us.
By inviting greenery into our homes and being mindful of the pollutants we are introducing to our personal space, we can start to purify and maintain the integrity of the air we breathe.
By inviting purifying plants into our offices and homes we can significantly improve the quality of the air we breathe and reduce the adverse effects on our health. Apart from their aesthetic quality, plants offer a natural, affordable solution to indoor air pollution.
Working as an organic air filter, plants remove pollutants from the air by converting toxins into nutrients that they thrive on. Research has shown that particular species of plants are capable of removing up to 90% of volatile organic compounds within 24 hours. In order to enjoy the air-purifying benefits of these plants it is encouraged to include at least one plant per 100 square feet of your living space.
NASA, 'Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement', 1989
Man’s existence on Earth depends upon a life support system involving an intricate relationship with plants and their associated microorganisms. It should be obvious that when he attempts to isolate himself in tightly sealed buildings away from this ecological system, problems will arise.
We have outlined the most efficient species below, along with horticultural advice. The following plants have been listed as the most effective in reducing levels of toxic chemicals including formaldehyde, ammonia and benzene. These chemicals are found in common household items like window cleaners, adhesives, paper bags, synthetic fabrics and plastics.
Spathiphyllum – The peace lily is a notoriously forgiving plant and will signal when they are dehydrated with a characteristic drooping of the leaves. Unless the leaves have drooped, water your peace lily once a week and spritz the leaves during the summer months. These plants thrive in consistent temperatures so avoid placing them near windows or drafts.
Hedera helix – Another easy-care plant, the English ivy is a commonly grown indoor plant. This plant will do well under bright, but not direct sunlight. if its variegated leaves turn mostly green, this is a sign that the plant isn’t getting enough light. Try to keep the soil evenly moist except for in the winter months when it can benefit from being a little drier.
Chrysanthemum morifolium– In flower for around six to eight weeks, these plants are often treated as annual and moved outdoors after the blooming season is over. These plants enjoy bright light and evenly moist soil. Make sure to keep your chrysanthemum’s in a cool place (under 18°C) as the flowers won’t last long in the warmth.
Variegated Snake Plant
Sansevieria – The snake plant is a wonderfully straightforward plant to look after. Simply place the plant in direct sunlight and don’t water them too much- particularly during the winter months.
Red Edged Dracaena
Liliaceae – The dracaena thrives in mid light but can also survive in low light conditions. Taking up to three weeks for the soil to dry out in low level conditions it is important not to over-water these plants. Brown tips on the ends of the leaves are a sign of over-watering or an excess of fluoride in the water. If this is the case, try watering your plants using filtered water.
The ritual burning of herbs and resins underscores many cultural traditions across the world. Studies have shown that the ceremonial art of ‘smudging’ not only plays a symbolic role in tradition, but also cleanses the air of harmful bacteria. In many cultures across the world, ‘smudging’ is an important step in the ritual purification of space and energy . In India, a mixture of wood and odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havana sámagri) are used in oblation fires. When burned, the flames fill the room with a fragrant smoke. This blend commonly includes, myrrh, frankincense, sandalwood, valerian and cedar. Held sacred by Native American Indians, sage remains one of the powerful, and commonly used cleansing herbs in purification rituals.
Although these ancient practices are rooted in religious tradition, they are effective in reducing the presence of pathogenic bacteria and have shown to be an effective aromatherapy agent.