Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 175, Issue 1–4, pp 163–180 | Cite as

The Potted-Plant Microcosm Substantially Reduces Indoor Air VOC Pollution: I. Office Field-Study

  • Ronald A. Wood
  • Margaret D. Burchett
  • Ralph Alquezar
  • Ralph L. Orwell
  • Jane Tarran
  • Fraser Torpy
Article

Abstract

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are major contaminants of indoor air, with concentrations often several times higher than outdoors. They are recognized as causative agents of “building-related illness” or “sick-building syndrome”. Our previous laboratory test-chamber studies have shown that the potted-plant/root-zone microorganism microcosm can eliminate high concentrations of air-borne VOCs within 24 hours, once the removal response has been induced by an initial dose. However, the effectiveness of the potted-plant microcosm in ‘real-world’ indoor spaces has never previously been tested experimentally. This paper reports the results of a field-study on the effects of potted-plant presence on total VOC (TVOC) levels, measured in 60 offices (12 per treatment), over two 5–9 week periods, using three planting regimes, with two ‘international indoor-plant’ species. Fourteen VOCs were identified in the office air. When TVOC loads in reference offices rose above 100 ppb, large reductions, of from 50 to 75% (to <100 ppb), were found in planted offices, under all planting regimes The results indicate that air-borne TVOC levels above a threshold of about 100 ppb stimulate the graded induction of an efficient metabolic VOC-removal mechanism in the microcosm. Follow-up laboratory dose-response experiments, reported in the following paper, confirm the graded induction response, over a wide range of VOC concentrations. The findings together demonstrate that potted-plants can provide an efficient, self-regulating, low-cost, sustainable, bioremediation system for indoor air pollution, which can effectively complement engineering measures to reduce indoor air pollution, and hence improve human wellbeing and productivity.

Keywords

indoor air pollution VOC TVOC “sick-building syndrome” “building-related illness” environmental biotechnology bioremediation phytoremediation potted-plant 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald A. Wood
    • 1
  • Margaret D. Burchett
    • 1
  • Ralph Alquezar
    • 1
  • Ralph L. Orwell
    • 1
  • Jane Tarran
    • 1
  • Fraser Torpy
    • 1
  1. 1.Plants and Environmental Quality Group, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of TechnologySydneyAustralia

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