Applied horticultural biotechnology for the mitigation of indoor air pollution

Society of People, Plant, and Environment
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of People, Plants, and Environment, 2018, 21 (6), pp. 445 - 460
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Exposure to indoor air pollution is an emerging world-wide problem, with growing evidence that it is a major cause of morbidity worldwide. Whilst most indoor air pollutants are of outdoor origin, these combine with a range of indoor sourced pollutants that may lead to high pollutant levels indoors. The pollutants of greatest concern are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM), both of which are associated with a range of serious health problems. Whilst current buildings usually use ventilation with outdoor air to remove these pollutants, botanical systems are gaining recognition as an effective alternative. Whilst many years research has shown that traditional potted plants and their substrates are capable of removing VOCs effectively, they are inefficient at removing PM, and are limited in their pollutant removal rates by the need for pollutants to diffuse to the active pollutant removal components of these systems. Active botanical biofiltration, using green wall systems combined with mechanical fans to increase pollutant exposure to the plants and substrate, show greatly increased rates of pollutant removal for both VOCs, PM and also carbon dioxide (CO2). A developing body of research indicates that these systems can outperform existing technologies for indoor air pollutant removal, although further research is required before their use will become widespread. Whilst it is known that plant species selection and substrate characteristics can affect the performance of active botanical systems, optimal characteristics are yet to be identified. Once this research has been completed, it is proposed that active botanical biofiltration will provide a cheap and low energy use alternative to mechanical ventilations systems for the maintenance of indoor environmental quality.
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