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Houseplants aren’t just pretty – they can improve the air you breathe in by 20%, too

Beautiful houseplants that improve your environment – what more could you want?

While houseplants are often used for aesthetics, they’re also very useful when it comes to make the air around you fresher and cleaner.

New research led by the University of Birmingham has revealed that common houseplants can reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide – a common pollutant – in the air by as much as 20%.

While the biological process behind the NO2 removal remains unclear, the researchers hope that this will encourage people to fill their homes or offices with more plants.

The study, in collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), tested three common houseplants – peace lily, corn plant and fern arum.

Each plant was placed into a test chamber containing levels of NO2 similar to an office situated next to a busy road, before being monitored over a period of an hour.

The results were incredible – all three plants removed around half the NO2 in the chamber over the course of an hour, no matter what the environment. This included, wet, dry, light and dark conditions.

What is Nitrogen Dioxide?

Nitrogen Dioxide, also known as NO2, is a gaseous air pollutant that comes from cars, lorries, power plants and more.

It’s not very good for the environment. High levels of nitrogen dioxide are also harmful to vegetation— decreasing growth or reducing crop yields.

Nitrogen dioxide can also fade and discolour furnishings and fabrics, reduce visibility, and react with surfaces.

Too much exposure to nitrogen dioxide can cause damage to the lungs.

It can also make asthma worse and is linked to causing chronic lung disease.

People closer major roads can experience NO2 exposures considerably higher than occur away from roads.

Dr Christian Pfrang, who led the study, says that the plants showed ‘strikingly similar abilities’ to remove nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere.

‘This is very different from the way indoor plants take up carbon dioxide in our earlier work,’ he says. ‘[That is] strongly dependent on environmental factors such as night time or daytime, or soil water content.’

The researchers calculated that in a poorly ventilated small office with high levels of air pollution, five houseplants would reduce NO2 levels by 20%

In a larger space, the effect of three plants would be smaller, at around 3.5%

Dr Pfang doesn’t think that the plants are using the ‘same process as they do for carbon dioxide uptake’ – which is through gas being absorbed in the leaves via tiny holes.

‘There was no indication, even during longer experiments, that our plants released the NO2 back into the atmosphere, so there is likely a biological process taking place also involving the soil the plant grows in – but we don’t yet know what that is,’ he says.

Breathing air with a high concentration of nitrogen dioxide can irritate airways in the human respiratory system, and can be particularly damaging for people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

Asthma + Lung UK says that high levels of NO2 can ‘irritate and inflame the lining of your airways’ causing a flare-up of asthma or COPD. It can also cause symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing.

‘Children and older people are also more likely to be affected and develop a respiratory infection and may react more to allergens (any substance that triggers an allergic reaction, such as pollen),’ a spokesperson for Asthma + Lungs UK says.


Credit: Source

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