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Sick-building syndrome

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A recent study from the Botanical Institute at the University of Cologne, Germany, shows that hydroculture plants (plants grown without soil) like the ficus Benjamina and pothos do a remarkable job of removing interior air pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzol, phenol and nicotine. These items are released into the interior atmosphere from the building materials themselves and contribute to the phenomenon known as "Sick-building syndrome".

Hydroculture plants absorb pollutants such as formaldehyde in large quantities through their leaves. They don't just store these chemical pollutants, but actually transform 90% of these substances into sugars, new plant material, and oxygen.

The ficus removes nicotine and breaks it down, while the rapidly growing pothos stores the nicotine in its younger leaves. The institute found up to 30 milligrams per gram of leaf dry weight. This combination of ficus/pothos can effectively neutralize most office pollutants.

You can substantially improve the plants cleaning abilities by installing a special ventilator in the plants pot. The ventilator draws air over the roots, thereby acting as a natural air filter. These are available from hydroculture suppliers.

Office with hydroculture plants not only improve the psyche, which improves productivity; but they actually help improve peoples physical capabilities. Bad air tires people out, causes headaches, lack of ability to concentrate, and muscle tension.

Stachybotrys fungusStachybotrys [©U. Tulsa]

Another advantage of hydroculture plants is that unlike plants grown in soil they do not contribute fungus spores to the ambient air. This can be a big boon to someone with allergies. Plants also humidify the air - thereby reducing the build up of static electricity. Computers are especially sensitive to static electricity build-up and can end up with a complete blackout due to static discharge.

Most employers have yet to recognize the correlation between hydroculture plants and office productivity. Some have installed plastic ("silk") plants to improve the atmosphere. However, plastic plants actually contribute to the problem of Sick-building syndrome by releasing formaldehyde and solvents into the air.

Expert analysis from the university and NASA shows that a 30 square meter room can be cleansed by 3 to 6 hydroculture plants acting as natural pollution filters (1-2 plants per 100 square feet).

In conclusion, simply by adding a few hydroculture plants to your interior environment may be the simplest way to improve your health and feel good at your work place or home.

[Text adapted from Hydroculture: the cure for sick-building syndrome.]

A Footnote:
While plants and, even more so, hydroculture plants clean the air, it is important to stress that a cure for the sick-building syndrome often requires additional measures, such as cleaning the air ducts, improving ventilation, installation of air filters, fixing water leaks, etc. For more about indoor air quality — and how to improve it — visit the EPA web site.

It is true that the cleaning ability of hydroculture plants can be increased by forced ventilation of the root system; however, the ventilation increases the water consumption considerably, thereby offsetting one of the major advantages of hydroculture, the long intervals between watering.
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