Not only do they brighten up the office, indoor plants could save an employee’s life too, say researchers.

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, harmful indoor pollutants represent a serious health problem that is responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide each year.

Now, a new study has revealed that ornamental plants could drastically reduce levels of stress and ill health, and boost performance levels at work because they soak up harmful indoor air pollution.

Lead researcher Stanley Kays of University of Georgia said some indoor plants have the ability to effectively remove harmful volatile organic compounds from the air and not only improve physical health, but also someone’s wellbeing.

In fact, the researchers have identified five “super ornamental plants” which every workplace should have to clean up indoor air -- English ivy, waxy leaved plants and ferns.

And, according to them, adding these plants to indoor spaces can reduce stress, increase performance at work and reduce symptoms of ill health, leading British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported.

The research team tested 28 common indoor ornamental plants for their ability to remove five volatile indoor pollutants. Of the species tested, purple waffle plant, English ivy, waxy leaved plant and Asparagus fern were rated best for removing air pollutants.

The purple heart plant (Tradescantia pallida) was rated superior for its ability to remove four of the VOCs.

“The volatile compounds tested in this study can adversely affect indoor air quality and have a potential to seriously compromise the health of exposed individuals,” Prof. Kays was quoted as saying.

The study concluded that simply introducing common ornamental plants into indoor spaces has the potential to significantly improve the quality of indoor air.

“As well as the obvious health benefits, the increased use of indoor plants in both ‘green’ and traditional buildings could have a tremendous positive impact on the ornamental plant industry by increasing customer demand and sales,” Prof Kays said.

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the ‘HortScience’ journal.

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