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Chemical Allergies



(borrowed from http://www.austinair.com.au/terms.php)

The term "sick building syndrome" (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building.
The following have been cited causes of or contributing factors to sick building syndrome:
Inadequate ventilation: Inadequate ventilation, which may occur if heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems do not effectively distribute air to people in the building.
Chemical contaminants from indoor sources: Most indoor air pollution comes from sources inside the building. For example, adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde. Environmental tobacco smoke contributes high levels of VOCs, other toxic compounds, and respirable particulate matter. Research shows that some VOCs can cause chronic and acute health effects at high concentrations, and some are known carcinogens. Low to moderate levels of multiple VOCs may also produce acute reactions. Combustion products such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, as well as respirable particles, can come from unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces and gas stoves.
Chemical contaminants from outdoor sources: The outdoor air that enters a building can be a source of indoor air pollution. For example, pollutants from motor vehicle exhausts; plumbing vents, and building exhausts (e.g., bathrooms and kitchens) can enter the building through poorly located air intake vents, windows, and other openings. In addition, combustion products can enter a building from a nearby garage.

Can plants control indoor air pollution?

Recent reports in the media and promotions by the decorative houseplant industry characterize plants as "nature's clean air machine", claiming that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research shows plants remove indoor air pollutants. While it is true that plants remove carbon dioxide from the air, and the ability of plants to remove certain other pollutants from water is the basis for some pollution control methods, the ability of plants to control indoor air pollution is less well established. Most research to date used small chambers without any air exchange which makes extrapolation to real world environments extremely uncertain. The only available study of the use of plants to control indoor air pollutants in an actual building could not determine any benefit from the use of plants69. As a practical means of pollution control, the plant removal mechanisms appear to be inconsequential compared to common ventilation and air exchange rates. In other words, the ability of plants to actually improve indoor air quality is limited in comparison with provision of adequate ventilation.

While decorative foliage plants may be aesthetically pleasing, it should be noted that overdamp planter soil conditions may actually promote growth of unhealthy microorganisms.


Recommended Top 10 Plants For Cleaner, Fresher Air

Here are 10 recommended interior plants rated for their ecological benefits (source: interpreted from NASA studies and NIGZ lists). These plants have been selected according to ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to pests, efficiency at removing chemical vapours, and transpiration rates.

Recommended Top 10 Plants For Cleaner, Fresher Air

Here are 10 recommended interior plants rated for their ecological benefits (source: interpreted from NASA studies and NIGZ lists). These plants have been selected according to ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to pests, efficiency at removing chemical vapours, and transpiration rates.

  • Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
    • Tolerant of the indoor environment, releases copious amounts of moisture into the air, removes chemical toxins.
  • Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
    • Easy houseplant to care for and is highly resistant to attack by most plant insects. It is also one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality.
  • Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea erumpens)
    • Highest transpiration ratings. It pumps much needed moisture into the indoor atmosphere, especially during winter months when heating systems dry the air. This palm is also one of the top-rated plants tested for the removal of benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.
  • Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)
    • Toughness. It will tolerate dim light and cool temperatures. Easy to grow and is especially effective at removing formaldehyde. It receives high marks in all categories. Out of all Ficus family Rubber plant is the best for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment.
  • Dracaena fragrans"Janet Craig"
    • Best plant for removing trichloreoethylene. Tolerates neglect and dimly lit environments. * Philodendron
    • Tolerant of shady conditions. OK in dark situation. In a NASA study they were shown to be particularly effective in removing formaldehyde molecules as well as other toxins.
  • Miniature Date Palm (Phoenix roebelinii)
    • Adapts quite well to the low light levels and controlled temperatures of homes and offices. Best palm for removing indoor air pollutants and is especially effective for the removal of xylene.
  • Ficus Alii
    • Helps purify the air, easy to growth and resistance to insects.
  • Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata)
    • Good in hanging basked or sitting upon a pedestal. It must have frequent misting and watering or the leaves will quickly turn brown and begin to drop. Of the plants tested, it is the best for removing air pollutants, especially formaldehyde, and for adding humidity to the indoor environment.
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
    • This plant has a high transpiration rate. Large water reservoir that hydroculture offers. One of the best indoor plants. The Peace Lily excels in the removal of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. Its ability to remove air pollutants and its excellent performance in all categories make it a most valuable houseplant.

See houseofplants (external link) for more detailed descriptions

Plants as Airfresheners

From book "Green Babies" by Penny Stanway

Recent research shows house plants can improve the quality of the air in the house by absorbing toxic chemicals. rom it — Formaldehyde, Carbonmonoxide, Carbon Dioxide.

The most environmentaly friendly plants are
  • Coconut Palm
  • Weeping fig (ficus benjamina)
  • Dracaena,
  • Spathiphyllum
  • Gerbera
  • Spider Plant
  • Chrysanthemums



  • Radium Hospital Oslo
    • After putting plants and full spectrum lighting into the workplace, their absenteeism level due to minor health and sickness problems, reduced from 15% to 5.6% and stayed that way over the full 5 years. And in another 3 month experiment earlier this year, the Nordea Bank returned similar figures – overall an average 10% reduction in staff illnesses.
  • “Plants make pc workers more efficient” John Bergs from Holland
    • ... Berg found that for workers who spent 4 hours or more a day in front of a computer screen, the introduction of plants made a significant improvement to their efficiency, concentration and general well-being.