At the office, employees often do not think about air quality until they suspect that it is making them sick. While those who work in older buildings may worry about toxins from old paint or asbestos insulation, those who inhabit new structures are sometimes at a higher risk of having poor air quality. New buildings are better insulated and sealed more tightly in an effort to conserve heat and air-conditioning. While these developments in design are lowering utility bills, many of these buildings also come with synthetic carpeting and plastic coated wallpaper which contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Moreover, newer furniture is often made of particle board which contains formaldehyde, while benzene and trichloroethylene are found in many paints and oils. This means that not only is heat or AC better contained in these buildings, so too are the pollutants released from housing materials.
Understandably, there is little that individual employees can do to change the air quality of their offices. While the owners of the property may make necessary repairs to older buildings, these newer constructions are toxic simply in their newness. Luckily, the same house plants you use to decorate your desk can simultaneously clean your air. NASA, a group that is certainly engaged with safety within the realm of enclosed spaces, performed a study that proved plants highly effective at improving air quality. The study began when researcher Bill Wolverton noticed in the 1960s that swamp plants were eliminating the Agent Orange used in the U.S. military’s biological warfare centers. With NASA, he discovered that when plants perform photosynthesis, they clean harmful gasses like benzene or formaldehyde out of the air in the process. The study found that 15-18 houseplants, 6 to 8-inches in diameter, can improve the air quality of the average home. This makes houseplants an aesthetically pleasing, affordable, and eco-friendly alternative to air purifiers. Some of the plants NASA included on their list include English Ivy, Spider Plants, Pot Mums, and Rubber Plants. A full list of NASA’s top plants can be found here. When choosing indoor office plants, remember your plants need to be healthy to keep you healthy! Be sure to ask your nursery specialist how much light, humidity, and water your plants will need as well as their ideal range of room temperatures.
And did we mention that indoor office plants make employees happier? According to a study published in Rehabilitation Literature, office employees showed enhanced creativity and morale when plants were brought into the office. They make you feel more awake too!
1. Newer homes and offices can have high levels of VOCs in the air from new paints, flooring, and furniture.
2. House plants can help filter these chemicals out of the air while improving overall employee wellness.