Indoor Plants Could Work As Cheap Air Filters For Offices

Finally, some recognition for all of your office gardening
A plant in the Popular Science offices

Your plants could be doing more work around the office than you are.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society detailed on Wednesday how certain types of houseplants are effective at removing indoor air pollutants at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.

Their findings offer a cheap solution to a pervasive problem. Indoor spaces can often contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like acetone, benzene, and formaldehyde. VOCs are usually found in paint, furniture, dry cleaned clothes, printers, and cleaning supplies, and can cause serious health problems. Inhaling large quantities of these compounds can lead to dizziness, allergies, and asthma. In severe cases, VOCs have been connected with central nervous system damage and cancer. One common method of purifying contaminated air is with expensive air filtration systems, but this new, leafy development could soon become a viable second option.

Five different species of house plants were exposed to eight common VOCs over several hours in a sealed chamber, and the results were impressive. All of the five plants were able to absorb acetone, but the dracaena shrub astonishingly pulled in 94 percent of the chemical. Out of the five, the bromeliad tested the highest for air filtration qualities, removing 80 percent of six out of the eight VOCs used.

A nursery filled with bromeliads, a type of flowering plant. Bromeliads were the most successful of the five plants at removing indoor air pollutants.

This could be a big deal for small businesses like nail salons. Nail salons constantly reek of acetone from the nail polish remover, causing many of the workers to wear face masks to avoid the fumes. The researchers plan on testing the effectiveness of these plants by monitoring acetone levels in salons over the course of several months.

This method is green to its core. Besides sprucing up the office with some color and life, which has been shown to improve productivity, this eco-friendly option can cut down on energy costs and saves businesses some serious cash.

So go ahead, bring a potted plant to work. Just don’t forget to water it.