With many of us spending our working days indoors, deprived of natural light, fresh air and living plants near us, ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ has become a common medical complaint. Symptoms include a heavy-headed feeling or headaches, as well as dry skin, sore eyes, fatigue and even asthma.
The cause? Indoor air pollution in a world filled with plastics and other harmful artificial chemical compounds. ‘More than 300 different volatile organic substances have been found in office air,’ says Ronald Wood from the Faculty of Environmental Sciences of the Technical University, Sydney, who says air pollutants can be discharged from wall paint, glue or new furniture, for example. Working near computers, which attract dust and release harmful particles into the air, exacerbates the problem.
‘People themselves also contribute to this problem,’ he explains. ‘Dry-cleaned clothes discharge tetra-ethyl chlorine and hair shampoos, soaps and deodorants discharge pleasantly smelling chemicals. In fact, all chemical substances in fragrances and perfumes are volatile which negatively affects the air we breathe.
‘Each person leaves a small part of these substances behind in the air everywhere. Furthermore, we discharge isoprene, acetone, ethanol, methanol and some other alcoholic substances, which our body naturally produces, into the air. If these emissions are multiplied by the number of persons in an office or in a crowd of people, then we get a phenomenal result. Coupled with the insufficient ventilation in many buildings, the problem increases.’
FACT: Plants can reduce symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome by a quarter, and the results have been found to be long-lasting.
The Agricultural University in Oslo, Norway
The above study was conducted across 51 offices where all the participants worked in identical offices with a floor area of 10m2 and a window covering most of the outer wall. Comparison studies were made between office workers with no plants and those with houseplants. The study proved a reduction in the following ailments: