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Sick Building Syndrome - How Plants Can Prevent It

Sick Building Syndrome may sound rather strange, but it's alarmingly common amongst white-collar workers. The condition describes a range of symptoms that manifest from spending long periods of time in an establishment, often an office. The ailments can include dizziness, headaches, skin irritations, shortness of breath, dry and sore eyes and other unpleasant issues. The primary environment where Sick Building Syndrome frequently occurs are enclosed areas with little natural, fresh air and that are occupied by a large number of people. In fact, NASA has reported that SBS is common within sealed, energy efficient office buildings.

If your workplace is making your staff ill, the result is of course absenteeism and perhaps in extreme cases, loss of team members who seek a better environment in which to work. According to a number of studies carried out by JCAHO, abseences related to indoor air quality has risen significantly and 40% of absences were attributed to illnesses relating to air quality. The result equals bad health and very bad business.

It has been proven that rooms filled with plants harbour 50-60% less airborne moulds and bacteria than those without. Furthermore, Dr Billy Wolverton, along with assistance from the Environmental Research Laboratory of John C. Stennis Space Center have been carrying out innotive research into the natural biological process of air purification for energy efficient buildings for almost 20 years. He stated, “we’ve found that plants have been found to suck these chemicals out of the air. After some study, we’ve unravelled the mystery of how plants can act as the lungs and kidneys of these buildings.”

Plants absorb pollutants form the office into their leaves, transmit the toxins to their roots and turn them into a source of food. They also emit water vapours, creating a pumping action that sucks unclean air into the roots when it is again transformed into food for the plant. Wolverton has discovered that plants are essentially in building where SBS occurs. In fact, he suggested that each and every work should have a plant on their desk, naming it the 'personal breathing zone'. Author of Design for a Livable Planet also stated that 15-20 plants can clean the air of a 1,500 square foot area sufficiently.


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