The Benefits of Plants

A 2-year NASA study found that plants remove common airborne pollutants from interiors. Concentrations of formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, mercury (which are emitted by carpets, paint, plastics, etc., and cause “Sick Building Syndrome”) and carbon monoxide were reduced by as much as 85% when common plants were placed in sealed chambers filled with these gases. Scientist developing the International Space Station found that plants were more effective than the best mechanical filters at removing certain toxins, so they incorporated plants in the Space Station’s air purification system. Make plants part of yours!
Did you know that you are more likely to develop a cold or catch the flu when the humidity in your home or office is too low? Plants actually stabilize humidity, making you and your environment healthier. A Washington State University study determined that when plants were placed in offices, the relative humidity stabilized at 30 to 60 percent, the range recommended for human comfort and health. The air inside office buildings is often extremely dry, especially in the winter when buildings are heated. Plants stabilize humidity by increasing their rate of transpiration–releasing moisture through their leaves–when the air is dry, and reducing transpiration when relative humidity is high. Have you thanked your plants today?
A Washington State University study found that the presence of even a few foliage plants increased office workers’ productivity on computer tasks by as much as 12%! Participants also felt less stressed, had lower systolic blood pressure, and reported feeling more attentive when plants were present.
Plants in your workspace can help lift your mood, say business interior design experts. “Live plants have been scientifically proven to minimize electromagnetic frequencies emitted from computers, telephones and fluorescent lights,” says Jami Lin, an interior designer with The Comfort Council, a panel of lifestyle experts at “These frequencies can cause ‘geopathic stress,’ which makes us feel like we’re tired or ‘fuzzy,’ and plants help reduce that.”
The Agricultural University in Oslo conducted studies over two years regarding health claims related to Sick Building Syndrome among workers in 51 different offices. When foliage plants were introduced, the sum score of 12 symptoms (fatigue, headache, sore/dry throats, coughs, dry facial skin, etc.) was 23% lower. This translated into a 14% decrease in absenteeism!
Research shows that plants can reduce noise levels inside buildings by up to 5 decibels. Foliage absorbs background noise and helps eliminate echoes, making the environment more comfortable for occupants. The effect is dependent on plant type, planting density and location. Plants placed near the edges and corners of a space work better than plants in the middle. This is because the plants absorb and diffuse sound waves before they can be reflected by the walls.
Numerous studies show that surgery patients recovering in rooms with garden views had shorter hospital stays, suffered fewer post-surgical complications and required far fewer doses of strong narcotic pain drugs. The studies also showed that merely viewing foliage brought about positive changes in blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and brain electrical activity within only 3 to 5 minutes! Plants are good medicine!
Scientific observations prove that plants have a positive impact on building occupants’ perceptions of their surroundings. Research conducted at Oxford Brookes University showed that the use of a waiting area within an atrium increased significantly when plants were added. Both men and women displayed a distinct preference for sitting opposite the plants in an atrium, deliberately positioning themselves where they could view the foliage. Also, the mean anxiety level of subjects was lower with plants in the atrium than without plants.
A study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that contact with nature helped reduce the incidence of violence and aggression in inner-city neighborhoods. Levels of aggression were significantly lower among people who had vegetation near their apartments versus those who didn’t. Scientists found that exposure to greenery mitigated the syndrome “Chronic Mental Fatigue,” which can lead to irritability and aggressive behavior. Does your home or office benefit from the calming effects of living foliage?
A recent study conducted by Dr. Roger Ulrich at Texas A&M University found that problem-solving skills, idea generation and creative performance improve substantially in workplace environments that include foliage plants. Both men and women demonstrated more innovative thinking when plants were present.
The EPA has identified more than 100 airborne carcinogens where we live and work. Photocopiers, carpets, ceiling tiles, insulation, plastics, paints, glues, inks, etc. constantly emit toxic gases, causing headaches, nausea, eye irritation, anemia, memory loss, and the increased risk of certain types of cancer. NASA-funded studies found that common houseplants thoroughly remove these toxins as quickly as they are emitted. Plants “breathe” through pores on the undersides of their leaves. Carbon dioxide—along with airborne contaminants—is drawn in, and pure oxygen flows out. Toxins are funneled to plant roots where microbes feed on them. And the longer a plant is exposed to certain chemicals, the more effective it becomes at removing them!
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