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The Science Behind Plants’ Purifying Abilities


Back in grade school, we all learned about the process of photosynthesis. To refresh your memory, photosynthesis is how plants turn solar energy into food so they can grow and thrive. The word “photosynthesis” literally means to create something with the help of light.

During photosynthesis, chloroplasts inside plant cells absorb sunlight and convert it into a usable food source: glucose (sugar). Plants also take in gases from the air, including carbon dioxide, which are broken down and turned into something new: oxygen. The final piece of the puzzle is water, which plants absorb either from soil or the surrounding atmosphere to complete the process.


Where are we going with all of this?


We said that plants absorb gases from the air during photosynthesis. While necessary for food production, this ability has the added benefit of ridding the air of harmful chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs are found in high concentrations indoors, primarily as the result of everyday products — such as carpet,upholstery, food containers and cleaning supplies — releasing them into the air.



According to the NASA Clean Air Study and others like it, plants play a “major role” in removing VOCs from indoor air.


The study focused on three widely used industrial pollutants that are hazardous to human health: benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE) and formaldehyde. It then tested the ability of more than two dozen common houseplants — including the bamboo palm, English ivy, peace lily, Boston fern, ficus and several species of philodendron and dracaena — to remove those toxins from the air.


Scientists discovered that the plant system as a whole, independent of soil, was responsible for the majority of air purifying effects. This includes the root system as well as the unique microorganisms inside each plant. Researchers concluded by recommending the use of plants to help remove “high concentrations of chemicals and/or smoke” from indoor spaces.


Why is indoor air quality so important? Because Americans spend 93% of their lives indoors.


Ninety-three percent. And, because most modern homes and buildings are constructed to be extremely energy efficient, we spend the majority of our days in the presence of countless toxins known to negatively affect our health and well-being.


The natural ability of plants to remove particulates and filter toxins from the air can lessen the impact of indoor air pollution and has led to countless other studies focusing on the benefits of bringing the natural world inside. In fact, plants are more effective than even the most powerful high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on the market, and they last longer and are considerably less expensive.



Help your design clients see the value of improving indoor air quality.


Not only do Sagegreenlife living walls enhance the beauty of spaces inside corporate offices, residential buildings, healthcare facilities and retail stores, but they provide the added benefit of purer, more breathable indoor air that promotes health and wellness.


It should come as no surprise that we incorporate many of the plants featured in the NASA report into our designs. In addition, because our patented Biotile™ hydroponic technology uses less water and electricity than other living wall options, Sagegreenlife is a cost-effective and sustainable solution for every client.


Call us today at 312.234.9655 or email info@sagegreenlife.com to learn more.

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