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Why Air-cleaning Plants Are So Important In London

In these days of ULEZ and congestion charging, broad environmental consciousness and a gradual switch towards electrified transport, it might be useful to have a little bit of historical perspective on London’s air quality - as well as understand why it still makes sense to have air-cleaning plants in the office, which consume pollutants so you don’t have to.

The fact is that in years past the air quality in the capital, as well as in other UK cities, was far worse than now. All those foggy nights in which Victorian villains like Jack the Ripper lurked were not some embellished Dickensian stereotype; they were the reality of the smog and soot of industry and homes powered by coal.

Such problems continued into the 20th century, with the notorious and deadly London Smog of 1952 prompting the 1956 Clean Air Act. This was followed by a further Clean Air Act in 1968.

Thanks to this, London and other major UK cities do enjoy far better air quality than they used to. In addition, it is also far better than that experienced in some very large cities, especially in the developing world.

World Health Organization WHO) figures for particulate matter, the most dangerous form of pollution to human health, indicated that in 2020, 94 of the 100 worst-affected cities were in Asia. India had 46 of them, including nine of the worst ten, with Delhi in the unwanted position of topping this smog-blighted table.

Delhi’s particulate matter concentration was 34 times the levels the WHO considers acceptable, which is a shocking figure, but should also put things in perspective; a city doesn’t need to be anywhere near as badly polluted as Delhi to exceed WHO standards.

That this applies to London was confirmed in April last year, when City Hall published a document showing every one of the 32 boroughs exceeded toxic pollution limits for Nitrogen Oxide. Moreover, when it comes to particulate matter, the UK had not as of 2021 met targets for reducing these, although the numbers have been heading in the right direction.

Indeed, as of 2021, no country in the world met WHO air quality standards - and these are national totals, let alone those of the bigger cities, where pollution levels will be above average.

All that goes to show that while London may have much better air than some cities, there are still good reasons to bring in plants that can create healthier microclimates in the office.

Many of these could be attractive plants that can add much to the general aesthetics of the office anyway, providing pleasant greenery as well as ensuring you breathe less unhealthy stuff in while at work.

Examples include snake plants (sometimes known as Mother in Laws’ Fingers), Aloe Vera and peace lilies, which are all fine as long as you don’t have any office pets as they are toxic to cats and dogs. If any animals are present, try money plants or Boston ferns.

You might not be leaving the office and walking into a pea soup of smog, but the air you encounter in the city is still more than polluted enough for you to benefit from having the right plants in the office.



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