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More plants, please!: Phytoremediation & the Cause for Improved Indoor Air Quality for all

According to a report published by The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS), Americans are spending over 90% of their time indoors. Whether in their homes or offices, these patterns are expanding to other areas through globalization and colonial-inspired industry growth. While our indoor environments are often revered as a safe place of recluse, free from the hazards of the outdoors, recent reports suggest that is not the case. In fact, our indoor environments experience higher concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than the outdoors. Most VOCs are naturally occurring, but the majority of risk arises from man- made materials or operations that are then brought into the home. Common household products and building materials including paint and furniture products are known to release toxins such as benzene, arsenic, and formaldehyde into the surrounding air, of which some have been linked to adverse human health effects from respiratory illnesses to cancer. Growing popularity in plant ownership has reignited discussions on phytoremediation, a plant’s ability to clean the air through natural processes. In the shadow of science, this trend reserves its own challenges and introduces possible barriers to accessible, affordable health measures. From potted landscape plants to integrated, interior green walls, this paper will analyze the capabilities and criticisms of ornamental plant life and its ability to improve our own.