Indoor plants and air quality, what’s the connection?
It all started with the NASA Study in 1989, where the researchers exposed plants to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a type of air pollutant. It appeared that, in conjunction with the soil and soil microbes, some indoor plants could reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds in the air.
But, can plants really improve the air indoors?
Conducting a swift internet search about indoor plants and air quality unveils a multitude of diverse opinions and studies that often point in opposing directions. When asked if indoor plants improve the air, some say yes and others say, not really. Thus, staying well-informed and consulting reputable sources is advisable. Here, we’ll share with you various studies along with their perspectives.
A 2022 research led by the University of Birmingham and in coordination with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) revealed that house plants can potentially contribute to minimizing poor indoor air quality (IAQ) . The research tested 3 types of indoor plants, including Peace Lily, Corn plant, and Fern Arum. These plants were settled in different chambers that contain nitrogen dioxide — with levels same to an office next to a busy street. An hour later, all the tested plants were able to reduce the level of nitrogen dioxide for about 50% inside their respective chambers.
While the NASA and the University of Birmingham studies suggested that indoor plants can improve air quality, it also appears that its authors may have overstated the impact indoor plants have on IAQ. Research has been indicating that plants don’t improve indoor air quality that much and that you would need a great number of indoor plants, between 100 to 1,000 plants for every 10 square feet, to make a difference.
Moreover, a review article in Nature from 2020, by Bryan Cummings and Michael Waring examined 196 different VOC removal tests with plants from various published papers. Cummings and Waring emphasized various concerns with the method of the papers they reviewed, including the sealed chambers only wide enough to fit the plant and putting the volatile organic compounds once. For them, in reality, indoor plants aren’t placed in very small spaces but in large rooms with people, building materials, furniture, and some constant sources of VOCs.
Given these critical reviews, studies, and research regarding the efficacy of plants in enhancing indoor air quality, a pertinent question arises: Should you still place indoor plants in your office?
Certainly! Though not primarily intended for improving indoor air quality, some of the benefits of office plants are that they can add to your office’s aesthetics and create a pleasant and more relaxed work environment. If you’re concerned primarily about indoor air quality at work, it is advisable to ensure proper ventilation, conduct regular cleaning practices, and monitor the presence and levels of air pollutants using uHoo Aura.