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Areca Palm

Rubber Plant

Peace Lily

Golden Pothos

Golden Pothos

Snake Plant

 Interior Plants for Human Health and Well-being:



     The Biohome primarily comprised synthetic building materials and furnishings.  Therefore, it was assumed that out-gassing of VOCs would create IAQ problems.  Upon entering the Biohome, the most exhibited symptoms were burning eyes and throat and respiratory problems.

     In the early 1980s, Dr. Bill Wolverton, a NASA scientist at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, first discovered that interior plants could remove volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) from sealed test chambers. After many repetitive chamber tests, the findings were published in 1984. These findings were enthusiastically received by the public. However, chamber test results do not always equilibrate to open air conditions.

     To further investigate the ability of interior plants to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) in energy-efficient buildings, NASA constructed a ‘Biohome’ made entirely of synthetic materials and engineered to achieve maximum air and energy closure.

     In our modern society, we have often thought of the indoor environment as a safe refuge from air pollution.  Even today, those with respiratory problems, the young and elderly are advised to stay indoors during periods when air quality is poor.  However, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies of human exposure to air pollutants may be 2-5 times, and on occasion, more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels.  Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors.  In fact, EPA now ranks indoor air pollution among the top five threats to human health.  ‘Click’ to view a chart showing the sources of many chemical emissions.

     Foliage plants that thrive in low-light conditions were placed throughout the living quarters to evaluate their ability to remove the VOCs built up from out-gassing of the newly constructed and furnished facility. Scientists placed an array of interior plants growing in commercial potting soil throughout the Biohome. Additionally, they placed one experimental fan-assisted planter containing a plant growing in a mixture of soil and activated carbon.  This unique plant filter had the VOC removal capacity of fifteen regularly potted plants.

     Air quality was tested several days later by mass spectrometer/gas chromatograph analyses showing that nearly all of the VOCs had been removed.  Sophisticated chemical analyses are necessary for scientific validation.  However, the definitive proof lay in the fact that one no longer experienced burning eyes or other classic symptoms of sick building syndrome (SBS) when entering the Biohome.  This was the first ‘real world’ application of interior plants alleviating SBS.  As a case study, a student lived for one summer in the Biohome and experienced no discomfort from indoor air quality.


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My Favorite Houseplants

for Cleaning the Air…