Houseplants, even though pretty and ornamental, might not be the antidote to polluted air. However, the demand for houseplants are on the rise, misconception or not, people like to believe that these will bring a hint of fresh air into their homes.
Aside from beautifying a space, a common belief is held – these plants purify the polluted air of the surrounding by removing toxic chemicals from it.
But a recent research simply overturns the belief that plants contribute to air cleansing. They claim that this is all a pure myth.
Rifat Islam Moon, a Kolabagan dweller of the city, did not leave a corner of the house empty. Money plants, ficus and ferns occupy every little vacant space of the house. She believes, "In our city of constant pollution, indoor plants can save us to some extent. It freshens the air from the toxic ingredients in the air."
In any city house like hers, it is now common to find houseplants occupying different corners, veranda, walls, or any other places.
While, there are websites who suggest getting indoor plants for the purpose of wellbeing only, on the other hand, there are plenty of profit-seekers cashing in on the idea. Many websites are providing people with online markets, with suggestions and advices, to buy indoor plants.
But this is where Michael Waring, an environmental engineer and indoor air quality expert at Drexel University, accuses those indoor decorating and wellbeing websites for dodging the consumers.
Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology published a recent study done by Waring and the study co-author. After reviewing several previously published scientific studies which tested 196 plants, this duo establishes the difference between the labs which had a high density of gas and a typical household which has a far less gaseous environment.
The researchers clarify the fact that the popular 1989 NASA study which says plants could cut down volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – which has been leading the consumers, retailers and website developers – was conducted in small air-tight containers contrasting the more spacious places like our house.
"We're not saying any of the experimental data is flawed," says Waring, "just that it's exactly that—experimental", in an article published by Sarah Gibbens on www.nationalgeographic.com.
This study further shows that though plants technically remove a very minimum amount of airborne toxins, to really impact the air quality at least 10 plants need to be kept per square feet which means having 5,000 plants in a small 500sq feet apartment!
Though having houseplants can be of refreshment, Joe Allen, a Harvard professor suggests to minimise the sources which cause indoor air pollution rather expecting it to be done by the plants.
The good news is that, environmental engineer Stuart Strand at the University of Washington has experimented with genetically modifying plants to better remove VOCs from the air which requires more experimentation to be done on. The opposing view, of course, exists – that this is not the ultimate solution to indoor air pollution.
Even though it is a myth, some people would still like to believe in plants and their power to heal their households.
Md Jafar Iqbal, chief executive of Shunno Art Space, has decorated his entire gallery with loads of houseplants like money plants, fern, ficus, snake plants, peace lily and what not!
"When I shifted here in 2014, the whole place was a mess with rubbish, wastage from nearby houses and extremely smelly. When I gradually started bringing more and more plants here, the scenario changed," told Md. Jafar Iqbal.
According to Jafar, even though people did not stop throwing waste materials around at all in the last few years, the rotting smell has vanished. He loves to believe that these plants are purifying the air of his gallery.
In this regard, Dr. Md. Monzur Hossain, professor of the department of botany at the University of Rajshahi, said The Business Standard, "Though people commonly believe in houseplants to be air-purifying, the actual case is not that.
Rather, the plants are producing carbon-di-oxide at night hours which can be a reason for not keeping the plants indoor."