N/LRA

INTERIOR LANDSCAPE PLANTS FOR INDOOR AIR POLLUTION ABATEMENT

FINAL

REPORT--SEPTEMBER

15, 1989

B.C.

Wolverton,

Ph.D.

Principal

Investigator

Anne

Johnson,

M.S.

and

Keith Sverdrup

Bounds,

M.S. Inc.

Technology,

This

work

was

jointly

supported Utilization (ALCA).

by

the

NASA

Office

of

Commercial Landscape

Programs--Technology Contractors of America

Division,

and the Associated

National

Aeronautics John and Space

and Space Space MS Technology Center,

Administration Center Laboratory 39529-6000

C. Stennis

Science Stennis

CONTENTS. Abbreviations Introduction A Promising, Chemicals and Acronyms ................................................ v 1 Air Pollution ..................... 2 3 3 5 5 6 for Trace Metabolites ...... 8 8 8 9 18 18 19

............................................................... Economical Used In The Solution Plant to Indoor

Screening

Tests ................................. ............................

Benzene

.................................. ...................................................... ......................................................... ..................................................... Selective Detector

Trichloroethylene Formaldehyde Materials Gas and

Methods

Chromatograph-Mass Analysis

Analysis

Microbiological Activated Results Summary

.................................................... Air Filter System ................................

Carbon-Houseplant and Discussion

......................................................

................................................................. ..........................................................

Acknowledgments References

................................................................ FIGURES

1. 2.

Indoor Man's

air purification interaction

system

combining

houseplants soil,

and

activated

carbon...

3

with his environment--plants, and

microorganisms, 3. Removal inside carbon 4. Removal inside carbon

water ............................................. of benzene and trichloroethylene pothos from the air

4

of low concentrations experimental filter

sealed

chambers

using golden

in an 8-in.

activated 16

system .................................................... of benzene using and golden trichloroethylene pothos from the air

of high concentrations experimental filter

sealed

chambers

in an 8-in.

activated 17

system ....................................................

.°°

III

PREC, EDING

P:IGE

E-,;'LA_',!K 't.,.. _,"_':" FILMED

TABLES Trichloroethylene Houseplants Benzene Removed from a Sealed Experimental Chamber by

°

During

a 24-h Exposure from a Sealed

Period

.............................. Chamber by 10 by 11 Chamber 12 by Houseplants 12 Chamber by 13

.

Removed During

Experimental Period

Houseplants Formaldehyde Houseplants
o

a 24-h

Exposure a Sealed

.............................. Chamber

,

Removed and

from

Experimental Period

Soil During

a 24-h Exposure from

......................

Chemicals During

Removed

by Houseplants Period a Sealed Period from

a Sealed

Experimental

a 24-h Exposure Removed from

.......................................... Experimental Chamber

.

Benzene During

a 24-h Exposure

.......................................... a Sealed Experimental

.

Trichloroethylene Houseplants Benzene Removing

Removal a 24-h from

During

Exposure

Period

.............................. Chamber by ................. Evergreen in a Sealed Plant

°

Removal

a Sealed Soil and

Experimental the Same 24-h Counts

Houseplants

in Potting All Plant

Potting Exposure

Soil after Periods 14

Foliage

During

.

Benzene after

Removal Exposed

and

Soil Bacterial for Several

of a Chinese to Benzene

Being

24-h Periods

Experimental

Chamber

.................................................

14

iv

ABBREVIATIONS

AND

ACRONYMS

Term
ALCA EPA GC HP NASA PCA TCE UF UFFI cfu/g cm cm 2 g h in. m mE min m3 p/m
S

Definition Associated Environmental gas chromatograph Hewlett-Packard National plate Aeronautics agar and Space Administration Landscape Contractors Agency of America

Protection

count

trichlorethylene urea formaldehyde urea-formaldehyde colony forming foam units insulation

per gram

centimeter square gram hour inch meter milliliter minute cubic parts second year microliter degrees Celsius meter per million centimeter

yr /zL °C

V

INTERIOR INDOOR

LANDSCAPE AIR POLLUTION

.PLANTS

FOR

ABATEMENT

INTRODUCTION During in heating to help efficiency the late alleviate included 1970s, when the energy costs, buildings costs. and spiraling energy crunch was being designed fresh felt at both the gas pump to maximize changes that energy improved and

and cooling

were being reduced

efficiency energy upon the

Two of the design

superinsulation

air exchange.

However,

occupation of these buildings, such as itchy eyes, skin rashes, other allergy-related symptoms. contributed significantly

the workers began to complain of various drowsiness, respiratory and sinus congestion, It was determined workers' health that problems. various equipment of the the airtight Similarly,

health problems headaches, and of buildings building synthetic

sealing

to the

materials, which are known to emit or "off-gas" linked to numerous health complaints. The office buildings manufacture Man himself of people are also a contributing factor because and design. should be considered ventilated in a confined another

organic compounds, have been and furnishings placed in these types of materials used in their

source

of indoor

air pollution, for an extended

especially period

when

living in a closed,

poorly

area. This becomes

very apparent

when a large number of time.

are present

place such as an airplane to a phenomenon estimated of indoor

All of these factors collectively One world or remodeled health organization buildings

contribute recently

called "sick building 30 percent Problems

syndrome." of all new of this type

that approximately air pollution.

have varying

degrees

have been reported in the United nations of the western world.

States and Canada

as well as in most other highly developed

Two major problems with indoor air pollution are the identification of the trace chemicals and their correlation with diseaselike symptoms. Energy-efficient buildings that are filled with modern possibly furnishings and high-tech equipment off-gas hundreds of volatile organics limits, which some interact with each other. and reactive years.(1-27) Even at concentrations may adversely Pickering buildings below present detection

of these chemicals The problems over the past Manchester, symptoms ten

byproducts Dr. Tony

affect inhabitants of the which Wythenshawe contained

of these buildings. Hospital the highest near that levels in of

of indoor England,

air pollution has studied in naturally

have been studied and documented sick building ventilated syndrome extensively

by many investigators and has learned are found The results

are minimal

of microorganisms. On the other hand, the highest levels of symptoms mechanically ventilated buildings containing low levels of microorganisms. his analyses indicate that it is unlikely to microorganisms. environmental threat scientists to human and government agencies agree that symptoms associated can be attributed Now pollution that most

with sick building

syndrome

that

indoor

air

is a realistic

health,

how can the problem

be solved?

A PROMISING, ECONOMICAL TO INDOOR AIR POLLUTION

SOLUTION

The first and most obvious step in reducing from building materials and furnishings before Aeronautics with sealed contamination for off-gassing Space Administration space habitats over problems (NASA) 16 years that

indoor air pollution is to reduce off-gassing they are allowed to be installed. The National indoor Although air pollution a final space problems solution NASA structures. associated to the trace does screen

identified ago.(1)

in these sealed environments

has not been found,

all new materials

are to be used in future

Another promising approach to further reducing trace levels of air pollutants inside future space habitats is the use of higher plants and their associated soil microorganisms.(28-29) Since man's relationship he attempts problems existence with plants to isolate will arise. on Earth himself depends in tightly upon sealed a life support buildings away system it should from involving be obvious this ecological organic would an intricate that when system, chemicals and their associated microorganisms, of hundreds

Even without

the existence

of synthetic

off-gassing into tightly air pollution problems. The answer to these

sealed environments,

man's

own waste products

cause indoor

problems he must

is obvious. take along

If man nature's

is to move life support NASA

into closed system.

environments, to solve

on Earth achieved,

or in space, however. puzzle

This is not easily and his team

At John

C. Stennis

Space Center, Professor

has been attempting of the USSR

this ecological

for over 15 years.

Josef Gitelson

of scientists and engineers have also been working with closed ecological systems for many years in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.(30) Only recently, however, have critical parts of this complex puzzle begun to come together. Although maintaining the balance of the complete cycle involves treating and recycling sewage, toxic chemicals, and other industrial air pollutants, In this study evaluated of using plant only indoor the leaves, means systems air is addressed roots, here. microorganisms Additionally, of indoor of plants air pollutants have been ecological water and

soil, and associated indoor high concentrations

as a possible

of reducing

air pollutants.

a novel approach such as

for removing

cigarette smoke, organic solvents, and possibly radon This air filter design combines plants with an activated The rationale moving organic by the large carbon for this design, volumes filter. pathogenic Plant which evolved of contaminated roots and air through their

has been designed from this work. carbon filter as shown in Figure 1. treatment carbon and possibly microorganisms studies, radon then is based on smoke, the are absorbed destroy bed where

from wastewater (if present), associated

an activated

chemicals,

microorganisms

pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and the organic chemicals, air pollutants into new plant tissue.(31"37) It is believed would be taken being conducted National up by the plant roots and retained to test this hypothesis in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. of sealing people for NASA

eventually converting all of these that the decayed radon products are currently Oak Ridge of Energy

in the plant tissue. Experiments at the Department

Laboratories looks

As NASA base, along

toward

the possibility

inside

a Space Station,

or moon

with large numbers

of plants the ecology of such a closed environment 2

(interactions

GOLDEN

POTHOS ......... ..

ACTIVATED

CARBON ........ POTTING SOIL MOTOR

SQUIRREL CAGE FAN (15-30 CFM)

\
/

ELECTRIC

TIMER EXCESS

Figure 1. Indoor air purification between man, plants,

system combining soil, etc.) must

houseplants be further

and activated evaluated.

carbon. 2.

microorganisms,

See Figure

As plant studies continue at Stennis Space identifying trace chemical contamination, metabolites This joint (ALCA) that effort may be off-gassed between NASA of data by plants

Center, emphasis is being placed not only on but also on identifying any volatile organic themselves. Landscape Contractors of America

and the Associated on the potential

covers

two years

use of houseplants

as a tool in solving

indoor air pollution problems on Earth, and has gone a long way toward reminding man of his dependence on plants for his continued existence and well-being on our planet. CHEMICALS Benzene Benzene gasoline, is a very commonly inks, oils, paints explosives, used solvent and is also present In addition, dyes. it has been shown activity and factor and in many basic items including USED IN THE PLANT SCREENING TESTS

plastics,

and rubber.

it is used in the manufacture

of detergents, Benzene to be

pharmaceuticals, to irritate cell

has long been known to bacterial

the skin and eyes. Furthermore and has shown

mutagenic

cultures

embryotoxic

carcinogenicity

in some tests. Evidence

also exists that benzene

may be a contributing

4q_o

E

0

o

0

c_
Q.

i
Q_

E
I=

o
i.m.

q_
°,w..

,4=
qw

0

q)
q_O °l.b

I=

c_
c_ 14,.

4

to chromosomal causes benzene drying,

aberrations inflammation,

and leukemia blistering, to cause dizziness,

in humans. and dermatitis. weakness,

Repeated Acute euphoria,

skin contact inhalation headache,

with benzene nausea, blurred

of high levels of

has been reported

vision, respiratory diseases, tremors, irregular heartbeat, liver and kidney damage, paralysis, and unconsciousness. In animal tests, inhalation of benzene led to cataract formation and diseases causes diseases of the blood headaches, of the blood and lymphatic system, systems. drowsiness, anemia Chronic exposure to even relatively disease. low levels and loss of appetite, nervousness, and bone psychological marrow disturbances,

including

Trichloroethylene Trichloroethylene Over 90 percent industries, carcinomas this chemical Formaldehyde Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous chemical found in virtually all indoor environments. The (TCE) of the Cancer is a commercial produced reported product with a wide variety metal degreasing varnishes, high incidence lacquers, of industrial and and adhesives. of hepatocellular considers uses. In

TCE

is used

in the

dry-cleaning

but it is also used in printing Institute was observed a potent in micegiven

inks, paints,

1975, the National

that an unusually

TCE by gastric

intubation.

The Institute

liver carcinogen.

major sources, which have been reported and publicized, include urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) and particle board or pressed-wood products. Consumer paper products, including grocery bags, waxed papers, facial tissues, and paper towels, are treated with ureaformaldehyde (UF) resins. Many common household cleaning agents contain formaldehyde. UF resins are used as stiffeners, wrinkle resisters, water repellants, fire retardants, and adhesive binders in floor covering, carpet backing, and permanent-press and cooking clothes. Other sources of formaldehyde kerosene. include cigarette smoke and heating fuels such as natural gas and

Formaldehyde reactive chemical of the upper disease Protection is strongly homes.

irritates the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and throat. It is a highly that combines with protein and can cause allergic contact dermatitis. The symptoms tract from exposure exposure conducted to high levels of this chemical Until recently, was asthma. cancer However, in long-term include irritation the most serious and eyes and headaches.(2,3) research

most widely reported attributed Agency suspected

respiratory (EPA)

to formaldehyde has recently of causing

the Environmental that formaldehyde occupants of mobile

which indicates

a rare type of throat

MATERIALS The

AND

METHODS plants Name were screened: Scientific Name

following

ALCA

Common

Bamboo Chinese English Ficus

palm evergreen ivy

Chamaedorea seifritzii Aglaonema modestum Hedera helix Ficus benjamina Gerbera jamesonii Dracaena deremensis Dracaena marginata Dracaena massangeana Sansevieria laurentii

Gerbera daisy Janet Craig Marginata Mass cane/Corn Mother-in-law's Peace lily Pot mum Warneckei All plants original a healthy Chemical constructed tested

"'Janet

Craig"

cane tongue

Spathiphyllum "'Mauna Loa'" Chrysanthemum morifolium Dracaena deremensis "'Warneckei'" from nurseries Miracle-Gro in our local area. fertilizer They were kept in their and were maintained in

were obtained

pots and potting between condition

soil, just as they were received tests. Stern's

from the nursery,

in a greenhouse

was used to keep the plants

for the project. tests were dimensions: Width* Depth* 0.76 (30) 0.76 (30) Height* 0.76 (30) 1.53 (60.5) conducted in four Plexiglas chambers, which were

contamination to the following

Two chambers

measuring

0.76 (30)

Two larger

chambers

measuring

0.76 (30)

The tops of the small chambers and side sections of the large chambers were removed to allow entry. Bolts and wing-nuts ensured complete sealing of the lids and created airtight chambers for testing. Constant illumination was provided during the testing from a bank of Damar Gro-lights that encircled the outside of each chamber. Mounted on the inside of each chamber has a coil of copper tubing through which water at a temperature of 7 °C was circulated. This cooling coil prevented the Gro-lights from causing excessive heat buildup inside the chambers and minimized any fogging from plant respiration in the chambers. The chambers also contained two small removable ports, each 0.6 cm (1/4 in.) in diameter, through which contaminants could be introduced and air samples could be obtained. A small fan was used to circulate air within each chamber.

*Each dimension

is given in meters

(m); the equivalent

in inches

(in.) is given in parentheses.

All tests wereconducted a periodof 24h. Experimental for testing included sealing selected a plant in the Plexiglas chamber,injectingoneof the threechemicals the chambern the into i methoddescribed elow,andcollecting b airsamples immediately followingchemical introduction, at 6 h and, finally, 24 h later. Leak testcontrols,whereinthe samechemicals were injectedinto an empty,sealed chamber,wereconducted periodicallythroughoutthe study. In addition, soil controlswithout plantsweretestedto determineif the potting soil and associated microorganisms ereeffectivein removingthe different chemicals. heseconw T trol testswereconducted usingpotsof the samesizecontainingthe samepottingsoil as by the pottedplantsused actualtesting.Experimental in procedure thenfollowedthesameorder asdescribed above. Benzene testingat high concentrations asperformedby introducing35#L of benzene w into thechamberusinga 50#L microsyringe. he benzene T wasinjectedonto a ,_:mall metal trayattached the chamber alljust belowtheintroductionport andallowedto evaporate to w with the helpof the fan insidethe chamber. periodof 30min wasallowedfor complete A evaporation the benzene of prior to withdrawingthe initial sample. Samplingwasdonewith a Sensidyne-Gastec samplingpumpandgasdetectortubes air specificfor benzene concentrationsangingbetween and100p/m. In sampling,a 200-mL r 1 volume air fromthechamber asdrawnthrougha Gastecube.Detection a colorchange of w t of in the benzene-specific indicatorreagent resentin the tubemeasured concentration p the of benzene. Introductionandsamplingof TCE wasperformedin a similar manner,exceptthat the indicatingreagentn the Gastec i tubeswasspecificfor TCE. The levelsof TCE that could be detected rangedfrom 1 to 25 p/m. Because formaldehyde a water-solublehemicalandis routinelysupplied is c asa 37.9percentsolutionin water,it wasnecessary utilizea differentmethod introduce to to thischemical into thetestchambers. formaldehyde solution was placed into a gas scrubber apparatus, The
which Tygon was attached tubing, to both an air pump through and to the chamber the formaldehyde sample inlet using pieces of Air was bubbled solution and introduced into the

chamber as a gas. The time necessary in the two chambers was determined 120 s for the large chamber. benzene detection Because range Sampling

to achieve the desired concentrations of formaldehyde experimentally to be 50 s for the small chamber and was performed air pump tubes in the same manner as that used for tubes. The and formaldehyde-specific was 2 to 20 p/m. enough for testing less than

and TCE using a Sensidyne-Gastec of the formaldehyde-specific equipment

the Sensidyne-Gastec

was not sensitive method

1 p/m concentrations,

a gas chromatographic

was developed

for low-concentration

analysis of benzene and TCE simultaneously in single sample. For the low-concentration benzene-TCE studies, two chambers of similar size were used, having volumes of 0.868 and 0.694 equal formed m 3. Benzene volume and TCE were introduced of benzene and TCE. for a 30-min period to withdraw into the chambers The sample before the initial using a I-#L sampling. volume of an tissue mixture was injected onto a Kimwipe Sampling a glass tube

and allowed

to evaporate

was percontaining

by using

the air pump

200 mL of air through 7

Tenaxadsorbent. he samples T wereanalyzed
interfaced to a Hewlett-Packard 2 capillary column (HP) and Model flame an HP Ultra

promptly ionization

using a Supelco detector.

air desorption (GC) equipped

unit with

5890 gas chromatograph

GAS CHROMATOGRAPH-MASS FOR TRACE After METABOLITES injection, (1/4-in.) 500-mL outside

SELECTIVE

DETECTOR

ANALYSIS

chemical

air samples diameter Trace Restek

were collected

from the chambers with Tenax were desorbed column.

onto 18-cm adsorbent, from the

(7-in.) by 0.6-cm Tenax tubes

stainless chemical

steel tubes packed contaminants desorber capillary

using the Sensidyne-Gastec using a Tekmar cooled

air pump. Model

5000 automatic dioxide,

into a HP 5890 GC equipped The GC oven program The of a temperature

with a 30-m, 0.32 mm inside diameter, was initially beginning program separation the sample to 0 °C using carbon at 0 °C, with a 30-s hold ended when the temperature on the GC, the sample was conducted

Rtx--volatiles

and then followed

at 0 °C, and a rise in temperature reached an HP 5970 mass range selective

of 8 °C/min. detector. mass Analysis units.

200 °C, for a total run time of 25.5 min. After of 35 to 400 atomic

entered

using a scanning

MICROBIOLOGICAL Using both potted

ANALYSIS plants and potting soil controls, 1-g samples of soil were taken from

surface and subsurface regions (approximately analyzed by means of the pour plate technique

10 cm in depth). Samples were subsequently to determine the number of "colony forming as the primary

units" per gram of sample (cfu/g). Plate count agar (PCA) was utilized microbiological medium. Plate count data reflect bacteriological counts.

Triplicate samples were taken both before and after exposure of the plants and soil to benzene and TCE. Following incubation at 25 °C for 24 h, samples were examined for the presence After cultures isolates of bacteria. Due to the inherently cannot be detected and slower growth rate of fungi samples agar, and actinomycetes, have elapsed. Stock Bacterial were isolated. these microorganisms plate count until three to five days of incubation and fungal dextrose Sabouraud's of biochemical

data were recorded, on PCA

both bacterial

were maintained were then subjected Fungal and sexual

respectively.

to a series

tests in order to aid in preliminary to search for the presence

identification. of asexual ACTIVATED

isolates spores.

were examined

by light microscopy

CARBON-HOUSEPLANT as shown in Figure

AIR FILTER

SYSTEM chambers were for been

Air filters designed for simultaneous injected 5-min. Complete

l were tested in one of the large Plexiglas Benzene and TCE in 500/_L and were allowed desorber were drawn, the chamber

removal

of benzene tissue taped followed occurred

and TCE. inside

volumes

onto a Kimwipe

to evaporate

volatilization Analysis Samples

and 100-mL on the Supelco initially

air samples

using a Tenax for a minimum

tube and air pump. previously described.

and HP GC that have

were drawn

and at 15-min intervals

of 2 h, or until all trace

chemicals

were removed.

8

RESULTS

AND

DISCUSSION or potting soil to remove benzene, TCE, and formaldehyde 8. The screening while from data

The ability of houseplants sealed experimental shown shown in Tables in Tables chambers 1 through 4 through 1 through Although found

is demonstrated 3 was accomplished

in Tables during during

1 through

of plants

the first year of studies,

8 were collected 4 were exposed these exposures

the second

and final year of this project. of chemicals, of which in the 15

Plants to 20 p/m

in Tables range.

to high concentrations gave a good indication

plants

might

be particularly investigations through Table 8.

suited

to the removal in indoor

of one or more of these chemicals, atmospheres. Results During the final of benzene

they are far above year of this project,

the levels commonly and more sophisticated

were conducted

using low concentrations methods.

and TCE (less than 1 p/m) are shown in Tables 5

analytical

from these studies

1. Trichloroethylene (TCE) Chamber by Houseplants

Removed from a Sealed During a 24-h Exposure

Experimental Period

Total

Plant (cm 2)

Leaf Area

Total

Micrograms per

Surface

Removed Plant 38,938

Gerbera (Gerbera English (Hedera Marginata (Dracaena Peace

daisy jamesonii) ivy heix)

4,581

981

7,161

7,581 marginata) 7,960 "Mauna tongue laurentii) 7,242 deremensis "Warneckei") 10,325 seifritzii) 7,215 massangeana) 15,275 deremensis "Janet Craig") Loa") 3,474

27,292

lily

27,064

(Spathiphyllum Mother-in-law's (Sansevieria Warneckei (Dracaena

9,727

13,760

Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea Mass cane

16,520

10,101

(Dracaena Janet Craig

18,330

(Dracaena

Table

2. Benzene

Removed

from During

a Sealed a 24-h

Experimental Period

Chamber

by

Houseplants

Exposure

Total

Plant (cm 2)

Leaf Area

Total

Micrograms per

Surface

Removed Plant

Gerbera (Gerbera Pot mum

daisy jamesonii)

4,581

107,653

4,227 morifolium) 1,336

76,931

(Chrysanthemum English (Hedera ivy helix)

13,894

Mother-in-law's (Sansevieria Warneckei (Dracaena Peace lily

tongue laurentii)

2,871

28,710

7,242 deremensis "Warneckei") 7,960 "Mauna Loa") 3,085 Queen") 7,581 marginata) palm seifritzii) 15,275 deremensis "Janet Craig") 10,325

39,107

41,392

(Spathiphyllum Chinese

evergreen "Silver

14,500

(Aglaonema Marginata (Dracaena Bamboo

30,324

34,073

(Chamaedorea Janet Craig

25,968

(Dracaena

]0

Table

3. Formaldehyde by Houseplants

Removed and Soil

from During

a Sealed a 24-h

Experimental Exposure Period

Chamber

Total

Plant (cm 2)

Leaf Area

Surface

Total Micrograms Removed per Plant

Banana (Musa oriana) tongue laurentii)

1,000

11,700

Mother-in-law's (Sansevieria English (Hedera Bamboo ivy helix) palm

2,871

31,294

985

9,653

14,205 seifrizii) 1,696

76,707

(Chamaedorea Heart leaf

philodendron oxycardium)

8,480

(Philodendron Elephant

ear philodendron domesticum) plant elatum)

2,323

9,989

(Philodendron Green spider

2,471

10,378

(Chlorophytum Golden pothos

2,723

8,986

(Scindapsus Janet Craig

aureus) 15,275 deremensis "Janet Craig") 7,581 marginata) 8,509 "Mauna Loa") 2,373 8,656 16,167 20,469 48,880

(Dracaena Marginata (Dracaena Peace lily

(Spathiphyllum Lacy tree

philodendron selloum)

(Philodendron Chinese (Aglonema Aloe vera

evergreen modestum)

1,894

4,382

713

1,555

]!

Table

4. Chemicals Experimental

Removed Chamber

by Household During a 24-h

Plants from a Sealed Exposure Period

Formaldehyde Initial (p/m) Mass cane Pot mum Gerber daisy Warneckei Ficus Leak control Note: 20 18 16 8 19 18 Final (p/m) 6 7 8 4 10 17.5 Percent Removed 70 61 50 50 47.4 2.8 Initial

Benzene Final Percent

Trichloroethylene

Initial (p/m) 16 17 20 20 19 20

Final

Percent

(p/m)(p/m)Removed 14 58 65 27 20 20 11 27 21 13 14 19 21.4 53 67.7 52 30 5 greenhouse

(p/m)Removed 14 10 13 18 17 18 12.5 41.2 35 10 10.5 10

Plants were maintained

in a commercial-type

until ready for test-

ing. Each test, 24-h in duration, was conducted in a sealed chamber with temperature and light intensity of 30 °C +1 and 125 footcandles _+5, respectively.

Table

5. Benzene Removal from Houseplants During

a Sealed Experimental Chamber a 24-h Exposure Period

by

Initial (p/m)

Final (p/m)

Percent Removed

English Janet Golden Peace Chinese

ivy Craig pothos lily evergreen

0.235 0.432 0.127 0.166 0.204 0.176 tongue 0.156 0.182

0.024 0.097 0.034 0.034 0.107 0.037 0.074 0.055 0.162 0.095

89.8 77.6 73.2 79.5 47.6 79.0 52.6 70.0 5.3 20.1

M argi n ata Mother-in-law's Warn ec kei Leak Soil test control control

0.171 0.119

12

Table

6. Trichloroethylene Chamber

(TCE)

Removal During

from a 24-h

a Sealed Exposure

Experimental Period

by Houseplants

Initial (p/m) English Janet Golden Peace ivy Craig pothos lily 0.174 0.321 0.207 0.126 0.114 0.136 tongue 0.269 0.121 0.141

Final (p/m) 0.155 0.265 0.188 0.097 0.091 0.118 0.233 0.120 0.128

Percent Removed 10.9 17.5 9.2 23.0 20.2 13.2 13.4 <1.0 9.2

Warneckei Marginata Mother-inolaw's Leak test Soil control control

During

the first-year

studies, from that after

the only controls leakage correcting

used were chambers the removal Because

free of plants soil without of chemicals

to test plants. the the

for loss of chemicals It was then assumed sealed chambers

chamber

and pots with fresh potting for controls, leaves.

from

could rates removal

be attributed rates attributed the exact

to the plant

of the low photosynthetic houseplants were puzzling. from the

and metabolic high chemical In an effort

expected

from these plants

at light levels of 125 to 150 footcandles,

to these low-light-requiring mechanism(s) involved

to determine

in chemical

removal

plant-soil system, plants were tested with foliage and then the same pots and soil were tested again after removing all foliage. Controls using full plant foliage with pea gravel covering the soil were also tested (Table 7). A microbiologist themicrobial profile found in the potting that potting soils. soil, after all foliage had been removed, was more was brought into these studies to determine

Early tests demonstrated

effective in removing benzene studies and careful observation amounts of foliage covered the air inside the chamber.

than pots containing full foliage determined that this phenomenon soil surface, reducing

and soil. However, further occurred only when large contact between allowing chemicals. the soil and maximum Results

the potting Thus,

some of the lower leaves were removed, toxic

contact between the soil-root zone and the chamber air containing of these new studies are shown in Tables 7 and 8.

13

Table After

7. Benzene Houseplants Removing

Removal

from

a Sealed

Experimental

Chamber Soil Periods

by

in Potting Soil all Plant Foliage

and the Same Potting During 24-h Exposure

Initial (p/m)

Final (p/m)

Percent Removed

Marginata Full Fresh foliage removed potting soil control chamber control empty 0.343 0.348 0.206 0.215 0.144 0.175 0.164 0.199 58.0 49.7 20.4 7.4

Foliage

Leak test, Marginata Full Full with Janet Full foliage foliage

0.176 and soil covered 0.205

0.037 0.069

79.0 66.3

pea gravel Craig foliage removed pothos foliage removed control 0.122 0.175 0.099 0.262 0.040 0.062 0.091 0.254 67.2 64.6 8.1 3.1 0.369 0.321 0.077 0.176 79.1 45.2

Foliage Golden Full

Foliage

Fresh potting soil control Leak test, empty chamber

Table Chinese

8. Benzene

Removal

and Soil

Bacterial for

Counts Several Chamber

of a 24-h Periods

Evergreen Plant After Being Exposed to Benzene in a Sealed Experimental

Soil Percent Removed 47.6 85.8

Bacterial Counts (cfu/g)

Initial After

exposure six weeks of intermittent exposure

3.1 x 104 5.1 x 104

]4

Although biological as benzene, genetically

the bacterial in Table factors

counts

correlated

with increased Data clean

chemical Therefore,

removal study

in some

of the

studies as shown

8, this finding

was not consistent. exposed fact that

other yet unidentified indicate that when 8. This to such toxic chemicals in Table have the ability

may also be important. to continuously increasing

from this two-year the air improves

the same plants and potting their capacity adapt, thereby is not surprising,

soil are constantly

to air containing microorganisms

as shown

since it is a well-established

their ability

to utilize toxic chemicals is currently

as a food source used to remove

when continuously exposed to such chemicals. toxic chemicals from wastewater. (31-37)

This phenomenon

Bacterial

isolates

found

in the soil in which mother-in-law's Bacillus, Curtobacterium, Arthrobacter, Bacillus,

tongue

had been growing

for

a long period Myxococcus,

were Alcaligenes, and Pseudomonas.

Flavobacterium, and Leuconostoc

Micrococcus, were found in

marginata root soil. Bacteria such as Bacillus, Flavobacterium, Leuconostoc, and Micrococcus were also found in the Chinese evergreen potting soil. The peace lily potting soil contained A ureobacterium, These toxic are common chemicals Bacillus, when Curtobacterium, by plant Micrococcus, root growth. studies are shown control in Figures study, 3 and 4. Although it is an essential This biological indoor air; move and source; Pseudomonas, to be capable and Streptomyces. of biodegrading soil microorganisms activated and most are known

Results component system it differs

of the activated effort

carbon-houseplant part of an indoor and study

this research

was not of pollutants plant

of the NASA-ALCA air pollution

two-year

in the development roots

system with plants to remove solvents. to purify

high concentrations also utilizes from

such as cigarette reported carbon

smoke and organic microorganisms here in that filter.

their associated

the potted of air through

plant

a fan is used to rapidly air pollutants as a food them

large volumes

an activated

This filter adsorbs can utilize

holds them until the plant roots and therefore, bioregenerating the carbon. To assure carbon-plant no pathogenic It is common certain that no disease-causing filter, exhaust air from have microorganisms knowledge

microorganisms

microorganisms the filters been found

were released

into the room air.

from

the

was analyzed

for microorganisms.

To date,

in the filter exhaust

that plants give off trace levels of volatile off-gassing studies were conducted plants were normally not expect significant

organic

chemicals

under of

conditions,

so metabolic

by screening maintained off-gassing detector chamber

several

the ALCA plants. These low-light-requiring low metabolic rates; therefore, one would terpenes, Tenax that or any other metabolite. tubes to analyze metabolites adsorption

at relatively of ethylene, studies using indicated

Gas chromatograph-mass the air inside the sealed were negligible. it is expected off-gassing.

selective experimental

the levels of plant

As temperature rates will increase and carbon rates dioxide of trace

and light levels are increased, along with some plant metabolite removal should also increase organic chemicals.

that indoor Increased

pollution

removal

oxygen production in the removal

the rate of leaf participation

volatile

15

0.250

0.225

0.200

0.175 E
Z

0.150

I-Z ILl Z

0.125

0.100

0.025

0.000

,

, 0.5

,

, 1.0 TIME (h)

,

' 1.5

' 2.0
[WO LV8"9-0031

Figure

3, Removal of low concentrations of benzene and trichloroethylene from the air inside sealed experimental chambers using golden pothos in an 8.in. activated carbon filter system.

]6

4O

3G

32

28
E
Q. Z C_

24

el= I.,.Z LLI (_ Z f...1

20

16

12

8

Figure

4. Removal of high concentrations of benzene and trichloroethylene from the air inside sealed experimental chambers using golden pothos in an 8.in. activated carbon filter system,

]7

Studies closed effects Arizona,

of the beneficial

or detrimental However, at Stennis with complete studies in Siberia

effects ecological Space

on man data closure Center,

of volatile involving private

plant man,

metabolites plants, and

in a soil 2 in means

system

have been limited. NASA

available

do not demonstrate studies

that harmful

can be expected

microorganisms.

by Biosphere picture

and USSR studies

are beginning

to present with plants

a clearer

of whatman

can expect to experience of life support. SUMMARY

when sealed inside facilities

and soil as his major

Low-light-requiring

houseplants,

along

with

activated

carbon

plant

filters,

have

demonstrated the potential for improving pollutants from the air in energy-efficient

indoor air quality by removing trace organic buildings. This plant system is one of the most

promising means of alleviating the sick building syndrome associated with many new, energyefficient buildings. The plant root-soil zone appears to be the most effective area for removing volatile organic chemicals. Therefore, maximizing air exposure to the plant root-soil area should be considered when placing plants in buildings for best air filtration. Activated carbon filters containing fans have the capacity an integral part for rapidly filtering large volumes for

of polluted air and should be considered solving indoor air pollution problems. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

of any plan using houseplants

The authors and the editorial

wish to recognize contribution

the technical of Yvonne

contribution

of Willard

L. Douglas, of this report.

Ph.D.,

Travis

to the preparation

18

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