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Indoor pollution may be more severe than outside air


What do a spaceship, a house, and a business have in common? The answer is that there are a number of volatile chemical substances that can make the air you breathe in these environments up to ten times more polluted than the outside air.

Experts say that in these places there is a strong concentration of highly polluting elements, which may be the cause of allergies and asthma, among other more serious conditions.

Environmental engineer Bill Wolverton, a former NASA researcher, and author of the book "Plants: How They Contribute to Human Health and Well-Being," explains that During the Skylab Space Base missions, more than 100 types of polluting substances were found within the spacecraft.
Realizing that, NASA scientists and researchers mobilized to find solutions to control the problem before long-term missions began.

From this discovery, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) surveyed public buildings such as offices, hospitals and day care centers, and identified over 900 airborne pollutants.
The prevailing element was formaldehyde (formaldehyde). Highly toxic, this carcinogenic compound is used in various building materials as well as furniture, glass, mirrors, clothing and even toilet paper. In addition to this gas, research has revealed the presence of benzene, xylene and trichlorethylene, (paint components, monitors, upholstery, photocopiers and cigarettes), as well as chloroform (found in drinking water), ammonia, alcohol and acetone (carpets and cosmetics). ), all harmful to health.

You who never valued your mother's little plant that she insisted on caring for and that often almost died dry because in her absence you stopped watering… Know that they are important natural filters against pollution!

Researchers have identified several easy-to-grow plants in low-light locations whose natural filters can counteract indoor pollution.
Many species can be used for this purpose, such as dracena, fern and aloe, but the most efficient among the plants are the low cost areca and rafis palm trees, well known for their ornamental qualities.
Although these two species stand out, the American engineer explains that all plants are capable of removing airborne pollutants. And this is because "the leaves of plants can absorb certain organic chemicals, destroying them through a process called metabolic collapse, which was proven by a group of German scientists who tested formaldehyde with carbon-14, observing their absorption and metabolic destruction within the chlorophyte (green pigmentation) ".
"Formaldehyde is metabolized and converted to organic acids, sugars and starch acids: when plants breathe water vapor through their leaves, they pull air into the roots. This nourishes the microbes with oxygen, which consumes the chemicals. toxic substances contained in the air, which serve as a source of food and energy, "he explains.


Dracena: effective against formaldehyde, xylene and trichlorethylene


Areca palm: like rafis, neutralizes most polluting agents

To improve air quality in homes and offices, Wolverton suggests using as many plants as a given space permits.
He recommends that plants be grown through hydroculture (hydroponics). The basic principle of hydroculture or hydroponics is very simple and well known: who does not know the method of placing a sweet potato in a container with water and waiting for the development of roots and foliage? For it was from this simple principle that the hydroculture system was developed and perfected, using fertilizers, expanded clay or boulders and containers specially developed for this purpose.

This cultivation method has some advantages: it is a very clean and simple to run cultivation system; Not much work with transplants, plants when suitable for this system grow well and free from problems with diseases or insects from the earth.

The ideal, according to the expert, is to have one plant for every 9.29 m² when cultivated in hydroculture, and two in the same space, when using earthen pots.


Phyllodendron: effective against formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide


Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata): humidifies air and neutralizes formaldehyde.

As the people who most resent internal pollution are children, the elderly, the sick or individuals with compromised immune systems, Wolverton says countries like Japan are already investing in green gardens within hospitals to improve air quality for patients and their families. employees.
"As a precaution, only plants grown through hydroculture should be used in hospitals because of the undesirable fungi and bacteria in these environments."


St. George's Sword: Can be used in the bedroom because it releases oxygen at night

Adapted from the text: “Former NASA researcher teaches how to get rid of indoor pollution” by Cristina Almeida for UOL Science and Health.

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