Clearing The Air: Plants To Combat Sick Building Syndrome

Updated: May 20, 2019



What is Sick Building Syndrome? When a large number of people within a workplace occasionally feel unwell because they are suffering from headaches, dry throat or sore eyes and the symptoms tend to increase in severity with time spent in the building, and then improve when away from the building, this is considered Sick Building Syndrome.


What are the symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome?

Common symptoms include:

  • Dry or itchy skin or skin rash

  • Dry or itchy eyes, nose or throat

  • Headaches

  • Lethargy

  • Irritability

  • Poor concentration

  • Stuffy or runny nose

What causes Sick Building Syndrome?

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what the direct cause of Sick Building Syndrome is but it is often physical and/or environmental factors including ventilation and air quality. I personally have worked in industrial environments where there was no natural light or adequate air ventilation and I can tell you that indoor plants have an incredible effect on not only air quality but also mood and environment - both Spider Plants and Peace Lillies have done well in environments without light and with poor air quality. Their survival abilities are really quite incredible.


Another common problem with many workplaces is radiation from electronics - computers, laptops, tablets, phones, screens - and with many companies employing open office layouts, there is often a greater exposure to many of these devices in a relatively small area.


In 2005, a NASA study showed that plants absorb radiation, with cacti being the most effective, although all plants absorb radiation, just as we do. What wasn't determined in the study was whether some plants actually attract radiation, actively directing it away from us. Nevertheless, plants are a wonderful addition to our workspaces and homes.


I am personally a little torn about cacti; their incredible spines (which are actually their leaves) are an amazing survival feature but cacti can sometimes be a little less than welcoming - I've often found the energy created in a room with cacti can often be just as spiky as its spines. But this is where we care for a plant really does matter - often cacti are a little neglected because they can go so long without water but cacti can add so much character to a room, especially when they are well cared for and treated with love, a little like us.


What Plants To Choose?

There are many indoor plants that are suitable to help improve the atmosphere and energy of an environment and I could list them here but I feel the plant choices on this infographic from Missouri Botanical Gardens are great choices as they are also readily available to us in Scotland and, if you wish, it can be saved or downloaded as a handy reference guide.

Peace Lily, Spider Plant and Golden Pothos are all easily propagated either by carefully splitting the plant (Peace Lily), planting its baby offshoots (Spider plant) or taking cuttings (Golden Pothus), for us to add more of them around our spaces or to share or swap with friends.


Image credit: Missouribotanicalgarden.org

Related Links

Therapeutic Horticulture

Phyto, Olfacto and Aroma Therapy

About Andrea, Flourish's Holistic Medicine Specialist and Therapeutic Horticulturist


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Copyright © Andrea Doran, Flourish and Contributors - Original Date of Publication April 2017 | For personal use and information only