Reduced productivity, bad moods and increased allergies have all been linked to chemicals that float in the air at room temperature. These chemicals are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs are present in carpets, paint and furniture in Australian homes with research showing concentrations indoors are up to ten times higher than they are outdoors.
In a study, scientists at RMIT University and the University of Melbourne have discovered that simply adding one medium-sized plant to a medium-sized room can increase interior air quality by up to 25 per cent.
And they found that by bringing a bit of nature indoors by adding five or more plants, this leads to significantly improved wellbeing,
University of Melbourne researcher Dominique Hes said the work was timely.
“Human beings are less and less among nature with current estimates indicating that urban dwellers spend 90 per cent of their time in indoor environments – resulting in a high level of exposure to indoor contaminant compounds,” she said.
“Our aim was to take the world of research and synthesise the knowledge into a scale of benefits provided by plants by grouping them into two categories: air quality and wellbeing.
“Based on the leaf area and the species’ ability to remove certain contaminants, we were able to calculate how many of our sample plants were needed to improve air quality and wellbeing in spaces of various sizes.
“Through this study, we also found there is also no mistake - indoor plants improve air quality by filtering airborne toxins caused by organic chemicals in things like paints and furniture finishes.”
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How to get more plant life balance
Because plants come in all shapes and sizes here a few things to consider to improve your plant life balance:
- Variety is key – a big group of plants that looks complex is able to fascinate, foster relaxation and help you to de-stress
- Create a cohesive look within a group of plants to optimise wellbeing
- Size matters – a plant’s ability to filter out pollutants is based on the surface area of the leaves
- Species matters – some plants are better than others at improving air quality. NASA’s Clean Air Study has a good list of indoor plants and the toxins they remove. Tips Bulletin also has a great list of plants that clean air with pointers on how to look after them
There’s an app for that
And the news is, this is all available in a new, free Plant Life Balance app
The app allows you to upload a photograph of your space to receive a health rating. If the rating is low, use the app to drag and drop plants over the photo of your area to see how a number of plants can improve your health, wellness and air quality.