Sick building syndrome is no myth


(2/7/2007)

From: Ganga Harris

(Plantcare Specialist)

Green Thumb Plantscape Service and Design, LLC.

Over the past 25 years, numerous studies have been conducted by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), NASA, as well as Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) on the effects of chemicals, pollutants and carcinogens in indoor air of buildings on human health. The EPA rates indoor air pollution among the world's top environmental health risks. With average Americans spending 90 percent of their time indoors and many facilities unable to afford and maintain a system to control humidity and fresh-air-intake, they are forced to operate contaminated systems which result in Sick Building Syndrome. New or recently renovated buildings have a higher risk due to large amounts of chemicals produced from paint, new carpets and new furniture which are recirculated into the building every day.

According to MJ Gilhooley, Plants at work; www.plantsatwork.org, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde which are found in paints, synthetic fiber and carpet/particle board respectively, are cancer causing carcinogens that cause health problems even in low doses.

When exposed over time, all these pollutants start to play havoc on the immune systems, causing sore heads, runny noses, sneezing, aches and pains as well as breathing problems.

According to an article on the website of Tropical Gardens I, Inc., NASA and ALCA have announced the findings of a 2-year study that suggest a sophisticated pollution-absorbing device: the common indoor plant may provide a natural way of helping combat Sick Building Syndrome. Dr. Bill Wolverton, formerly a senior research scientist at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, Bay St. Louis, Miss., has conducted research into the use of indoor plants for indoor air purification and revitalization both in space habitats and on Earth. NASA research on indoor plants has found that living plants are so efficient at absorbing contaminants in the air that plants will be launched into space as part of the biological life support system aboard future orbiting space stations. The research also found that toxins are absorbed into the roots of plants where they are turned into nutrients for the plants.

Dr. Wolverton has found that plants are especially needed in office buildings in which Sick Building Syndrome is common. He goes so far as to suggest that everyone have a plant on his or her desk, within what he calls the "personal breathing zone." This is an area of six to eight cubic feet where you spend most of your working day. Jay Naar, author of Design for A Livable Planet, suggests 15 to 20 plants are enough to clean the air in a 1,500 -square -foot area or at least one plant per 9.29 square meters.