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Role Of Plants In Controlling Indoor Air Pollution
Environmental pollution is the contamination of the physical and biological components of the atmosphere to such an extent that normal environmental processes are adversely affected. Air pollution is the pollution of the environment by the addition of chemical substances, harmful gases, particles, etc., which disrupt its natural physical and chemical composition.
Air pollution comes from natural and man-made sources such as combustion, construction, mining, agriculture, automobiles, industrialization, and war. Common gaseous air pollutants include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrogen oxides along with particulate matter or fine dust.
Consequences of air pollution.
Pollution causes not only physical disabilities, but also psychological and behavioral disorders in people such as headaches, bronchitis, asthma, eye irritation, cardiovascular problems, etc. Animals and plants are also affected by pollution.
The World Health Organization estimates that around two million people die prematurely each year as a result of air pollution, while many more suffer from respiratory disease, heart disease, lung infections and even cancer. Fine particles or microscopic dust from coal or wood fires and unfiltered diesel engines are rated as one of the deadliest forms of air pollution caused by industry, transport, domestic heating, cooking and coal or diesel power plants.
Indoor air pollution
In addition to outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution is now seriously viewed by many health organizations as one of the greatest risks to human health since most people spend about 90% of their time indoors at home or in the office. Polluted indoor air quality imposes short-term (eye irritation, headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, asthma) and long-term (chronic bronchitis, heart disease, lung cancer, liver and kidney damage) health effects.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a term that refers to the quality of air in and around buildings as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. More than three billion people worldwide continue to depend on solid fuels, including biomass fuels (wood, manure, agricultural residues) and coal, for their energy needs. Cooking and heating with solid fuels in open fires or traditional stoves results in high levels of indoor air pollution. Indoor smoke contains a variety of health-damaging pollutants, such as fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide.
Indoor air pollution is widespread in both urban and rural areas. Indoor urban air pollution can be experienced in poorly ventilated compact buildings such as apartments, auditoriums, theaters, hospitals, schools, colleges, etc., due to human gatherings and modern lifestyle conveniences such as air conditioners, vacuum cleaners , room fresheners, sprays, disinfectants, paints, the habit of smoking, etc. Air pollution in rural interiors is mainly due to the use of traditional stoves that use organic fuels (coal, wood) for cooking which emit large amounts of smoke and CO that affects the breathing process.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) can be affected by microbial contamination, gases including radon, CO, CO2, Volatile Organic Compounds such as formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, particulate matter, pollen and fungal spores, pesticides, etc. stress that can cause adverse health conditions. Most indoor pollutants are carcinogens and neurotoxins.
IAQ can be improved by proper ventilation, use of filters and exhaust fans to some extent. Alternative means to treat indoor air pollution
Some plants that can be grown indoors (shade-loving plants) can be safely used as a good source of reducing indoor air pollution. Plants due to their ability to photosynthesize can absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide gas through stomata and release oxygen as a by-product, thus making the air suitable for breathing by human beings. Plants release additional water as water vapor through the stomata through the physiological process of transpiration, thus causing freshness and increased humidity in the surrounding environment. so plants are able to function as air purifiers and also act as substitutes for air conditioners to some extent. Plants are more effective at filtering pollutants than air cleaners and filters that consume electricity. The added bonus of using plants as cleaners is that they are beautiful and provide a natural aesthetic scenario (greenery) that brings calm and peace to the interior. The plants are cheap, they do not require electricity to operate.
Studies conducted by NASA show that house plants remove indoor air pollutants. Most houseplants probably evolved from plants growing on the understory of tropical forests and under the canopy of large trees such as Banyan Ficus etc. These plants must be able to survive high concentrations of mold and mildew and prevent attack on their leaves. They have adapted by developing microbes in the root system that serve the purpose of biodegrading mold and mildew and are also able to effectively biodegrade common indoor pollutants such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene, which are cleaning products and household products, and provide protection against airborne fungal spores.
According to NASA reports, plants together with the environment in which they are grown are able to remove 99.9% of toxins from polluted indoor air, especially VOCs. It’s not the foliage, but the soil bacteria that develop in the rhizosphere of these indoor potted plants that are capable of biodegrading toxic chemicals when activated by growing plant roots.
There are about 50 plants that can be grown indoors, which probably evolved from plants that grow in the understory of tropical forests and under the canopy of large trees. The names of some commonly used plants suitable for Indian environmental conditions are mentioned below: Anthurium, Begonia, Asplenium, Dieffenbachia, Dracaena, Rubber plant, Fittonia, Maranta, Monstera, Syngonium, Alocasia, Philodendron, Pothos, Bamboo palm, Poinsettia, Peace , Azalea, Areca palm, Boston fern, dwarf persimmon, etc. In order to keep the indoor environment healthy and pollution-free, it is advisable to place the potted indoor plants in the room or meeting hall, hospitals, schools in a place where the sunlight enters for a while during the daylight hours. However, there are important questions about whether plants can sufficiently influence indoor air. Some scientists and indoor specialists say that research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) demonstrates the efficacy of plants as indoor air purifiers.
It was originally assumed that plants removed the chemicals through leaf uptake and photosynthetic processes, but research that measured the amount of pollutants in the presence of leafy plants and after leaf removal shows that it is not actually the leaves, but the microflora of the rhizosphere ( soil bacteria) from these plants are able to degrade and break down pollutants. Scientists identified several common isolates of soil bacteria in the root-soil zone that are capable of biodegrading toxic chemicals when activated by growing plant roots.
As plants remove pollutants and make the environment clean, awareness should be given to their cultivation, propagation and appreciation.
Proper care should be taken in the maintenance and gardening of indoor plants
Plants should be grown in pots with a light potting mix of soil, sand and compost.
Containers should be placed where it receives some sunlight. Plants can be taken out once a week for a few hours.
Plants should be watered and cleaned properly. Water logging should be avoided as soil microflora actually degrades indoor pollutants.
Fertilizers should be supplied according to the needs of the specific plant.
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