The Level of Volatile Organic Compounds Exposure in New Buildings: Can Adding Indoor Potted Plants Reduce Exposure?

Kelly Vazquez, Lydia Adams


Background: Formaldehyde, acetone, styrene, 2-methylbutane, and toluene are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have shown to cause serious health effects. This study sought to determine the health effects and levels ofthese VOCs and determined if their levels decreased after the addition of indoor plants. Methods: Two offices were tested in a newer building and two offices were tested in an older building. The chemical levels were tested before plants were added and were retested after plants were added at four and six weeks. Results: In the new building, formaldehyde increased by the fourth week, but decreased by the sixth week, while acetone decreased by the fourth week and increased by the sixth week. In the older building, acetone increased by the fourth week and decreased by the sixth week. Formaldehyde decreased by the fourth week and increased by the sixth week. No styrene was found in any office at any time. A reduction in 2-methylbutane levels was observed in two out of four ‘post-plant’ measurements and a reduction in toluene levels was observed in three out of four ‘post-plant’ measurements.  Conclusion: Employees may become exposed to VOCs in office buildings. As healthcare providers, nurses can educate people about what these harmful chemicals are and ways to reduce exposure. Nurses can also introduce efficient and cost-effective methods, such as adding plants, to decrease these chemicals in the places where people spend the most time.


Volatile Organic Compounds; New Buildings; Indoor Air Pollution; Health Effects; Indoor Plants; Clean Air

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