Reducing Formaldehyde Exposure in Office Environments Using Plants

Article · March 2000with51 Reads
DOI: 10.1007/s001289910044 · Source: PubMed
Formaldehyde is a toxic substance with adverse health effects detectable at low concentrations. Formaldehyde causes irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, wheezing, nausea, coughing, diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness and lethargy at levels as low as 50 parts per billion (ppb) (0.05 ppm) (Horvath et al, 1988). Formaldehyde has also been associated with aggravation of asthma, emphysema, hayfever and allergy problems at low levels (EPA, 1987). Formaldehyde is currently considered a potential carcinogen to humans (EPA, 1987). Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous gas found in elevated concentrations in indoor environments. Concentrations of formaldehyde are typically an order of magnitude greater inside buildings compared to outdoor air (Godish, 1990). Formaldehyde concentrations are particularly high in portable buildings due to the presence of more formaldehyde emitting materials and the relatively smaller interior volumes of air (Sexton et al, 1983). Major sources of formaldehyde indoors are pressed wood products, such as particle board and plywood (Elbert, 1995: Myer and Hermans, 1985), and urea formaldehyde foam insulation (Spengler and Sexton, 1983). Other sources include carpets, curtains, floor linings, paper products, cosmetics and soaps, tobacco smoke and gas combustion (Spengler and Sexton, 1983: Godish, 1990). Methods to reduce indoor formaldehyde include source removal or use of non- polluting materials, emission reduction through physical or chemical treatments and dilution through ventilation and air purification. While most solutions involve dilution through ventilation, increased interest in the scientific literature (Wolverton et al, 1989: Godish and Guindon, 1989) as well as in the popular media has been given to the use of plants to purify air in buildings . Most studies however, have been conducted in the laboratory (Levin J, 1992: Godish T and Guindon C, 1989) and are difficult to extrapolate to real life situations (Wolverton et al, 1989: Godish and Guindon, 1989).
    • There are also direct chemical benefits that improve quality of life and psychological benefits that promote relaxation. Plants improve air quality by filtering the air, reducing indoor air pollution from chemicals such as carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and ammonia – indicating that the presence of indoor plants are beneficial for one's physical health (Dingle et al., 2000), and crucial in preventing Sick Building Syndrome – an illness that is characterized by the following symptoms: headaches, eye irritation, sore throat, exhaustion, lack of concentration, nausea, dizziness, and chest pains (Finnegan, Pickering, and Burge, 1984). Sick Building Syndrome is caused by lack of ventilation in the workplace, which leads to a large concentration of contaminants in the air, such as dust and other microorganisms (Stolwijk, 1991).
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We review the empirical literature that has implemented aspects of our ancestral environment into the workplace and discuss the positive influence these factors have had on employees' physical and psychological health. We focus upon several components of our ancestral environment, including sunlight, greenery, sleep, physical movement, and social interaction with fellow humans as well as animals (specifically, dogs). Employers who are willing to adopt an evolutionary psychological approach to organizing their workplaces may drastically improve their workers' overall physical and psychological health as well as their overall productivity. This will, in turn, decrease employer costs related to medical care, absenteeism, and lack of productivity. Suggestions regarding how to implement these evolutionary psychological methods to the workplace are also discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012
    • In chamber studies with controlled conditions, the decrease in formaldehyde concentration due to the effect of plants ranged from 47 to 70% (Wolverton et al., 1989). Results from active sampling in office environments suggested that achieving an 11% reduction in formaldehyde levels in a real life situation would require the equivalent of one plant to each m 3 or 2.4 plants to every m 2 (Dingle et al., 2000). Atmospheric particles have been associated with increased respiratory symptoms (Delfino, 2002; Simoni et al., 2002; Weisel, 2002).
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous studies performed by the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) indicated that plants and associated soil microorganisms may be used to reduce indoor pollutant levels. This study investigated the ability of plants to improve indoor air quality in schools. A 9-wk intensive monitoring campaign of indoor and outdoor air pollution was carried out in 2011 in a primary school of Aveiro, Portugal. Measurements included temperature, carbon dioxide (CO(2)), carbon monoxide (CO), concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOC), carbonyls, and particulate matter (PM(10)) without and with plants in a classroom. PM(10) samples were analyzed for the water-soluble inorganic ions, as well for carbonaceous fractions. After 6 potted plants were hung from the ceiling, the mean CO(2) concentration decreased from 2004 to 1121 ppm. The total VOC average concentrations in the indoor air during periods of occupancy without and with the presence of potted plants were, respectively, 933 and 249 μg/m(3). The daily PM(10) levels in the classroom during the occupancy periods were always higher than those outdoors. The presence of potted plants likely favored a decrease of approximately 30% in PM(10) concentrations. Our findings corroborate the results of NASA studies suggesting that plants might improve indoor air and make interior breathing spaces healthier.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012
    • For example, it has reported a highest formaldehyde cancer risk for office workers in China (1.25E-04) (Li et al., 2008), which is similar to the finding of Wu et al. (2003) who found a cancer formaldehyde risk range of 2.06E-04 – 1.75E-03 inside offices in Taiwan. It has suggested also that formaldehyde cancer risks in offices are generally higher than other environments due to the common high formaldehyde levels in offices environment (Dingle et al., 2000; Cheong & Chong, 2001; Li et al., 2008). Table 3shows that exposures risks of formaldehyde in the current study was higher than the corresponding values recorded in different workplaces worldwide (Báez et al., 2003; Feng et al., 2004; Lü et al., 2006).
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Formaldehyde exposures are common and epidemiologically linked to cancer. Workers occupationally exposed to formaldehyde in industrial and medical fields have a significant probability of acquiring degenerative diseases. The main objective of this study was to determine formaldehyde in the occupational environment of a chemical manufacturing plant in Egypt and assess its risk for the exposed workers. Formaldehyde was monitored in workplace environment of a chemical manufacturing plant. Formaldehyde concentration (mg m-3) was determined and the exposure (E) for an individual worker due to intake process (inhalation), chronic daily intake (CDI) and carcinogenic risk (CR) were calculated for the different cases according to the US EPA Carcinogenic Assessment Section of the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). Formaldehyde concentration was variable between different production departments with a range from 0.11 to 5.7 mg m-3. The calculated exposure results were coincided with the high formaldehyde concentrations at the concerned departments. Formaldehyde cancer risks for all reported concentrations were greater than the acceptable cancer risk 1×10-6. Consequently, inhalation exposure to formaldehyde has a critical influence on workers of this factory. The results prove that risk assessment estimation is a powerful assisting tool in developing abetment plans to reduce pollutants emission and improve air quality. The lack of quality epidemiological studies on exposed populations emphasizes the need for more extensive studies on formaldehyde and its related health effects in Egypt.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2011 · Plant Biotechnology
    • They showed the effectiveness of indoor plants for formaldehyde removal in a sealed chamber (Wolverton et al. 1989; Wolverton and Wolverton 1993). Recently, more research has been conducted to investigate the effectiveness of botanical filtration for formaldehyde abatement (Dingle et al. 2000; Xu et al. 2010; Wang and Zhang 2011). However, further research is needed to address the following questions.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Formaldehyde, an irritant and cacinogent to humans, is one of the most concerning indoor gaseous pollutants because it is often found in buildings and poses a potential health risk to occupants even at a very low concentration level. Chemisorption and catalytic oxidization are two promising methods for indoor formaldehyde removal. This review covers the following aspects of the two formaldehyde removal methods: reaction mechanism, activity test method, materials, performance, and effect of environmental conditions (temperature, relative humidity, concentration level, and velocity) on the removal performance. Results show that a supported noble metal (e.g., Pt) and metal oxide (e.g., MnO2) are the most effective catalysts, but usually require a high temperature for complete decomposition of formaldehyde. An amino group containing activated carbon is the most commonly used chemisorbent. The effect of the noble metal loading and the preparation method of the noble metal catalyst are also discussed. Possible applications in a building HVAC system are discussed along with needed future research.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2011
    • There have been several reports of detoxification of air pollutants by indoor plants (Dingle et al. 2000; Godish and Guindon 1989; Wolverton et al. 1984); however, there are few reports on the effects of formaldehyde on gene expression in plants. Differential screening for genes that responded to formaldehyde treatment using GeneFishing PCR (Kim et al. 2004) resulted in the isolation of two putative formaldehyde-responsive genes, a putative chitinase (EaCHI1), and an unknown ORF (DEG2) from golden pothos.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Plants absorb and metabolize formaldehyde, a C-1 compound that is one of the main indoor air pollutants. To elucidate the molecular mechanism of formaldehyde metabolism in plants, we isolated formaldehyde-responsive genes from golden pothos by means of GeneFishing PCR. We focused on the immediate-early response genes following formaldehyde treatment. Two full length cDNA sequences corresponding to a putative class II chitinase and a hypothetical novel protein, which we termed DEG2, were generated by rapid amplification of cDNA ends ( RACE). The chitinase, which we designated EaCHI1, was up-regulated in the leaves and stems, whereas DEG2 was up-regulated in the leaves and roots of formaldehyde-treated golden pothos. Phylogenetic analysis showed that putative class II chitinases were split into two groups, monocot and dicot. EaCHI1 belonged to the former group, occupying the most basal level among the monocot chitinases analyzed. The identification of chitinase as a formaldehyde-responsive gene suggests a novel physiological role for this enzyme in plant carbon metabolism and environmental responses. The DEG2 sequence was not similar to any known protein sequence.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2010
    • The authors concluded that the " levels of VOCs on the ninth floor remained essentially the same as those on the eleventh floor throughout the duration of the study. " Dingle et al. (2000) reported on a field study of three portable office buildings in Perth, Australia to test removal of formaldehyde by plants. Five plants (five species) were added to each room every two days to a maximum of 20 plants (at 2.44 plants per m 2 ) after nine days.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the late 1980’s, research indicated that plants had the capability to remove volatile organic compounds (VOC) from indoor air. The findings were based upon chamber studies involving injection of a pollutant into a small, sealed chamber and following the pollutant decay, with and without plants present. The results were striking with removal rates up to 90% in 24 hr. Other studies examining this effect followed. Today, even a casual search of the internet will find many articles extolling the benefits of using plants as indoor air cleaners. However, there has been little critical analysis of the application of plants to actual indoor environments and only a few field studies have been conducted. A critical review of results of both laboratory chamber studies and field studies leads to the conclusion that indoor plants have little, if any, benefit for removing indoor air of VOC in residential and commercial
    Full-text · Conference Paper · Jan 2009 · Plant Biotechnology
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