Potted plants can give off VOCs

New research from the University of Georgia's Department of Horticulture has revealed that in addition to giving off healthy oxygen and sucking out harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some indoor plants actually release VOCs.

The research team studied four plants: peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii Regel), snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata Prain), weeping fig (Ficus benjamina L.) and areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens Wendl). Samples of each plant were placed in glass containers with inlet ports connected to charcoal filters to supply purified air and outlet ports connected to traps where volatile emissions were measured. The results were compared with empty containers to verify the absence of contaminants. A total of 23 volatile compounds were found in peace lily, 16 in areca palm, 13 in weeping fig, and 12 in snake plant. Some of the VOCs are ingredients in pesticides applied to several species during the production phase.

Other VOCs released did not come from the plant itself, but rather the micro-organisms living in the soil. Eleven of the VOCs came from the plastic pots containing the plants. Several of these VOCs are known to negatively affect animals.

Interestingly, VOC emission rates were higher during the day than at night in all of the species, and all classes of emissions were higher in the day than at night. The presence of light along with many other factors affect synthesis, which determines the rate of release.

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First Published in November 2009


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