Diwali came and went, leaving behind a choking pall of smoke and dust in the city. Then came cyclone Bulbul and blew it all away. But the lack of adequate green cover, unbridled urbanisation and a boom in vehicular pollution have brought the smog back. The city’s pollution level, which had fallen below harmful levels following the cyclone, is back to haunt us. And the only way to ensure a better future is to plant more trees and increase the green cover around us. While it’s not always possible to do that on a large scale, we can always start at home. And as luck would have it, nature already has a treasure trove of plants that not only produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, but are also efficient at removing pollutants from the ambient air. All you need to do is plant a few at home, especially if you have kids around.
Demand for air purifiers on a rise
Green spaces (both indoor and outdoor) are a source of wellness for all living beings, including humans. And gradually, people are waking up to this concept. Mr Pawan Gadia, CEO of a flower and plants boutique chain, said, “We have noticed that people have become more health conscious these days. They have learnt about serious problems like respiratory infections, pulmonary diseases and heart diseases, which rise due to pollution. Hence, they have started keeping more and more air-purifying plants, like peace lily, snake plant, money plant, areca palm and spider plant in their homes to fight indoor pollution to a great extent. These plants absorb toxic chemicals present in the air and also improve the quality of air. We have actually collected data and found that since Diwali, our plant sales have gone up by 20%. Earlier, we used to ship around 1,000 plants a day. Now, we ship about 12,000 plants every day.”
Though winter is the season of flowers and people usually buy rose, marigold, petunia and zinnia, this year is witnessing a new trend. Shubhojeet Mondal of Shubham Nursery at Gariahat Market, said, “The sales of plants have gone up in the last one month. Not just flower plants, people are buying more houseplants that provide high amount of oxygen. Snake plants and Chinese banyans are more in demand this year.”
Dry air and dust can irritate your senses. Plants increase air humidity and give us respite to some extent. According to Mohan Naskar, owner of a 25-year-old nursery on Avishikta connector, people have now become more aware of the benefits of plants. “Though sales of flower plants remain the same this season, I noticed a sudden urge among people to buy air-purifying plants just before Diwali. Interestingly, most of my new clients were youngsters, which convinced me that people were taking up gardening for a good reason. So, I will have to say, the sales have increased.”
‘Air pollution is terrifying in its far-reaching consequences’
For actor Tota Roy Choudhury, it’s a necessity that he spends some time every day in the company of greens — be it trees, plants or grass. “Though I haven’t tried my hand at gardening, I love plants. There’s a roof garden on my terrace. Air pollution is terrifying in its far-reaching consequences. I suggest, we all should have at least some indoor plants at our homes and workspaces to curb that,” suggested the actor.
‘Plants are natural air purifiers’
A lot of research has gone into the benefits of plants and human health. Subir Bera, a professor of botany and programme coordinator at Calcutta University, said, “Not just outdoors, a new study has revealed that air inside homes in cities have become unsafe with high levels of pollutants found in it. You spend about 80% of your time indoors — be it at home or in office. Indoor air pollution can increase the risk of stroke, respiratory infections in children, heart disease etc. Plants are natural air purifiers. They can help remove dangerous compounds from fuels, furnishings and clothing. Plants like alfalfa, petunia, red kidney bean and cotton plant can absorb and accumulate sulphur dioxide that emit from fireworks. Another pollutant — carbon monoxide — is removed and degraded before their accumulation in roots of plants like spider plant, bamboo palm, corn plant, snake plant, gerbera daisy and so on.”
‘Greenery has a therapeutic effect on our mind and body’
The best part about indoor plants is that they are resilient and low-maintenance. These plants not just add a dash of style to an otherwise dull indoor space, but also help purify the ambient air and make you feel refreshed. “Greenery has a therapeutic effect on our mind and body. I love a speck of green around me. So, I have placed a jade on my office desk. It hardly needs maintenance and sits pretty on my table. Jade is known to be particularly effective in absorbing toluene emitted from gasoline, paints, kerosene and lacquers,” said Suranjana Nandi, manager at a consumer goods company.
Here are few air-purifying plants that are in demand these days:
You can buy both big and small aloe vera plants for your office or home. Aloe has air-filtering qualities, with the ability to remove pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene. It’s an ideal plant that can be grown for both decorative and medicinal purposes. The gel inside can also be used to treat cuts and burns.
Jade is a succulent that is easy to grow indoors. It requires minimal watering. According to Japanese folklore, the plant brings financial success and luck. No wonder people have it in their offices! Even Feng Shui enthusiasts give this plant a lot of importance.
It is a great choice when it comes to eliminating toxins and adding beauty to your home. It is known to absorb poisonous gases, such as carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air. In return, it gives out clean oxygen.
According to the studies by NASA, three houseplants were tested for their ability to remove formaldehyde from the air and it was found out that the spider plant was the champ among them. It also removes contaminants from the air, such as ammonia and benzene. The spider plant can thrive in indirect sunlight and survive in temperature as low as two degrees.
Apart from bringing in good fortune and prosperity, the money plant absorbs the chemical toxins from the air, such as formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, trichloroethylene, and xylene and releases fresh oxygen to breathe.
This is a fairly large plant. It has the ability to break down and neutralise toxic gases found in the air such as formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide. This plant is ideal for any office space without big windows. Its long green leaves improve energy flow and detoxify the air. It’s a low-maintenance plant that can be watered once a week.
These are evergreen plants from India. Their roots grow upwards and often become entwined around the plant’s trunk, forming interesting shapes. Rubber plants eliminate carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and more.
Known as mother-in-law’s tongue, it is a hardy succulent. According to studies by NASA, the snake plant is known to remove toxins from the air, such as xylene, formaldehyde, toluene and nitrogen dioxide. It also releases moisture and lessens airborne allergens.
Source: Times of India