A new study suggests that potted plants might add a certain aesthetic value to your house, but they are likely to have adverse health effects.
The research team headed by Stanley J. Kays of the University of Georgia's Department of Horticulture has shown that these indoor plants actually release volatile organic compounds into the environment.
During the study, they identified and measured the amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by four popular indoor potted plant species Peace Lily, Snake Plant, Weeping Fig and Areca Palm.
Samples of each plant were placed in glass containers with inlet ports connected to charcoal filters to supply purified air and outlet ports connected to traps where volatile emissions were measured.
A total of 23 volatile compounds were found in Peace Lily, 16 in Areca Palm, 13 in Weeping Fig, and 12 in Snake Plant. Some of the VOCs are ingredients in pesticides applied to several species during the production phase.
Other VOCs released did not come from the plant itself, but rather the micro-organisms living in the soil.
"Although micro-organisms in the media have been shown to be important in the removal of volatile air pollutants, they also release volatiles into the atmosphere", said Kays.
Furthermore, 11 of the VOCs came from the plastic pots containing the plants. Several of these VOCs are known to negatively affect animals.
Interestingly, VOC emission rates were higher during the day than at night in all of the species, and all classes of emissions were higher in the day than at night.
The study concluded, "while ornamental plants are known to remove certain VOCs, they also emit a variety of VOCs, some of which are known to be biologically active.
"The longevity of these compounds has not been adequately studied, and the impact of these compounds on humans is unknown."
The study is published in the American Society for Horticultural Science journal HortScience.