The average houseplant gets a lot of nitrogen from the air

Daily houseplants can significantly reduce indoor air pollution. British research shows that they can reduce the concentration of nitrogen dioxide by a fifth.

Scientists from the University of Birmingham conducted several experiments on popular houseplants, such as the tree plant and the peace lily. The plants were placed in a test room with a concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comparable to a crowded roadside office. The team found that all plants, regardless of species, were able to remove nitrogen oxide in the room within an hour. It does not matter whether the plant is in dry or wet soil, or in light or dark conditions.

“The plants we chose were very different from each other, but they all showed surprisingly similar abilities to remove nitrogen dioxide from the air,” said researcher Christian Pfrange. “This is a big difference with carbon dioxide uptake, which is highly dependent on environmental factors such as night or day, or the level of moisture in the soil.”

the health

The team calculated what the results could mean for offices. For example, in a small, poorly ventilated office with a lot of air pollution, five houseplants can reduce nitrogen dioxide pollution by about 20 percent. In a larger area, the effect would still be around 3.5 percent, but adding more plants would increase that percentage again.

The effects of nitrogen dioxide air are not bad. Nitrogen dioxide is harmful to human health, and children are especially sensitive. It can cause inflammation in the lungs and lead to shortness of breath and asthma. In addition, cardiovascular problems are among the potential consequences, and recent studies are also proving a link to dementia. The mechanism by which plants absorb nitrogen dioxide remains a mystery to researchers.

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“We don’t think plants use the same process as carbon dioxide uptake, where the gas is absorbed through the stomata in the leaves,” Bfrange says. There was no indication that our plants were releasing nitrogen dioxide back into the atmosphere, so it’s possible that there is a biological process going on that involves the soil as well. But we don’t know what this is yet.

Scientists from the University of Birmingham have conducted several experiments on popular house plants, such as the thuja and the peace lily. The plants were placed in a test room with a concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comparable to a crowded roadside office. The team found that all plants, regardless of species, were able to remove nitrogen oxide in the room within an hour. It does not matter whether the plant is in dry or wet soil, or in light or dark conditions. “The plants we chose were very different from each other, but they all showed surprisingly similar abilities to remove nitrogen dioxide from the air,” said researcher Christian Pfrange. This is a big difference with carbon dioxide uptake, which is highly dependent on environmental factors such as night or day, or soil moisture content. For example, in a small, poorly ventilated office with a lot of air pollution, five houseplants can reduce nitrogen dioxide pollution by about 20 percent. In a larger room, the effect will still be around 3.5%, but adding more plants will increase this percentage again, and the effects of nitrogen dioxide-polluted air are not bad. Nitrogen dioxide is harmful to human health, and children are especially sensitive. It can cause inflammation in the lungs and lead to shortness of breath and asthma. In addition, cardiovascular problems are among the potential consequences, and recent studies are also proving a link to dementia. The mechanism by which plants absorb nitrogen dioxide remains a mystery to researchers. “We don’t think plants use the same process as carbon dioxide uptake, where the gas is absorbed through the stomata in the leaves,” Bfrange says. There was no indication that our plants were releasing nitrogen dioxide back into the atmosphere, so it’s possible that there is a biological process going on that involves the soil as well. But we don’t know what this is yet.

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