Author – Swetha Ananthula
We live in a post-pandemic era where the air we breathe has become the most important determinant of our overall health. Since we spend all our time indoors, it is imperative to improve and maintain the quality of the air that we breathe at home, office or schools.
You would be surprised to know the various types of harmful pollutants in indoor air. Besides affecting general well-being, this polluted environment can cause some serious issues such as allergies, skin conditions, and breathing problems.
Common indoor pollutants
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by paints, varnishes, disinfectants, air fresheners, etc.
- Nitrogen dioxide, Carbon monoxide emitted by incomplete combustion in stoves, wood fireplaces and kerosene space heaters.
- Formaldehyde released from adhesives used in binding foam with furniture and wall panellings.
- Benzene released from cigarette smoke, paints and scented candles.
- Mercury emitted in tiny amounts by broken compact fluorescent lights
- Fungus, pet dander and hair
We need to prevent such air pollutants with steps like proper ventilation or air purifiers. However, many times, ventilation is not feasible due to space constraints and air purifiers come with issues such as noise, frequent filter replacement, power consumption etc.
Fortunately, you can combat poor air quality with simple steps that won’t cost you a fortune or time. Growing indoor air purifying plants could be a simple and easy-to-implement option for schools to ensure a breath of fresh air right inside classrooms: Learn more here.
Benefits of indoor plants for classrooms
Plants in the classroom can improve the visual appearance of a learning area. But not only do indoor plants look good, they have many powerful benefits too. Research studies have found that bringing plants indoors can play a vital role in the behaviour and academic performance of young students.
House plants add so much to the interiors and also help in reducing harmful chemicals in air. NASA’s Clean Air Study suggested that certain common indoor plants may provide a natural way of removing toxic chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. However, some of these plants are mildly toxic to pets, so care should be taken.
Some of the key benefits of having indoor plants in school classrooms are:
- Absorb acoustic noise in the classroom that can reduce anxiety among students and teachers
- Absorb noxious gases such as CO2, CO, NO2, etc.
- Create a Biophiliac ambience that appeals to our natural instinct to be drawn to nature
- Absorb excess humidity and reduce temperature as well
- Reduces the need for air conditioning due to cooler air
Air purifying indoor plants
Here is a list of selected few well-known indoor plants that purify the air:
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)
This perennial plant with large leaves removes formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and ammonia. It is a low light plant that lives best in shade (but near windows). The soil needs to be moist but only needs watering once a week. Under medium light conditions, it has good flowering and in low light conditions it develops dark green leaves but no flowers.
Snake plant (sanseviera trifasciata)
Predominantly used as ornamental plants, these snake plants are tolerant to low light, high and low temperatures, and low water conditions. They need watering once in a week and in winter you can water it once in a month. Since it produces oxygen and removes CO2 during night, it’s great to keep it in bedrooms. There are various types of snake plants that can be propagated from whole leaves or rhizome or cut leaves.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
These flowering perennial house plants survive in shade with strong photosynthesis and help in controlling CO and formaldehyde. They can tolerate temperatures down to 2°C (35°F), but grow best at temperatures between 18°C (65°F) and 32°C (90 °F). However, these plants can be damaged by high fluoride or boron levels in the soil.
These adaptable, succulent (store more water) plants helps in absorbing CO and CO2 and removes benzene and formaldehyde. The habitats of these water preserving plants are often in areas with high temperatures and low rainfall which gives them the ability to thrive on limited water sources.
Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata)
Having thin leaves of glossy green colour with red edges, it has the ability to grow in both shade and sun. It is an effective air cleaner and is said to be among the best plants for removing xylene and trichloroethylene. Once a mature plant is established, it is quite drought-tolerant.
Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
These perennial flowering plants are efficient in removing trichloroethylene, benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, and other chemicals from the air. In general, the plant is best fertilized once a month and watered two to three times a week depending on climate. Care should be taken since these are vulnerable to various diseases.
Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
In temperate regions, it is a popular houseplant with its white, yellow, or light green leaves. It can be grown in any region, indoor or outdoor, hydroponically as well. It requires little care and is attractively leafy. It is efficient in removing indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene and benzene. Growing this plant in aquariums is beneficial to both the plant and the aquarium as it absorbs nitrates and uses them for growth.
Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
This graceful palm is very easy to grow and maintain and helps in reducing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene in air. As with most palms, the soil should be well drained and household fertilizer in the summer months will keep these palms green and healthy. The main insect problem with this palm is Spider Mite. Grows in low indoor light but can also tolerate some sunlight.