Healthy Computing: Clean Air

Our working and home environments are furnished with many man-made durable
materials, convenient appliances and equipment. Unfortunately, these
modern necessities have a negative side-effectthey contribute to indoor
air pollution. Materials and equipment in office buildings and homes
usually contain a chemical brew of volatile organic compounds (e.g.,
formaldehyde, benzene and tricholorethylene) that are outgassed from
paper, inks, furniture, carpet, paints, wall coverings, cleaning
materials, and floor tiles. This is particularly prevalent in new or newly
renovated buildings where paints, carpets and sealants release various
gasses, especially during the first few months after installation. These
gasses often stay in the rooms where there is limited air circulation due
to sealed buildings or closed windows during winter. Copiers and laser
printers may add to, and activate, this mix by producing ozone. Indoor air
pollution can sometimes be greater than outdoor. Reduce pollution and
enhance your health when you make CLEAN AIR.


After renovation or installation of furniture or carpets, be sure to allow
for air circulation by opening windows and doors.

Place plants in your office and home to help clear the indoor smog and
remove the volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The following plants all
mop-up VOCs and some gobble up specific chemicals in this brew.*

  • Azaleas, rubber plants, tulips, poinsettia, philodendron and bamboo palms

  • Areca palm (toluene)
  • Lady palm (ammonia)
  • Peace lily and chrysanthemum (acetone, methanol, trichlorethylene,
    benzene, ethylacetate)

Additional ways to improve air quality:

  • Ventilate your work area (open a window or door, if possible).
  • Move copier/laser printers to a well-ventilated space and/or place an
    exhaust fan near the printer.

  • Turn off copier or laser printers when not in use (purchase new equipment
    that is energy efficient and shuts down when not in use).

  • Install an air purifier/filter.

If you work in a sealed environment, take a walk at lunch or ask coworkers
to have a walking meeting so that you can get out in the fresh air.

*Read: How To Grow Fresh Air by Bill Wolverton, Penguin, 1997.

Copyright 2003 Erik Peper, Ph.D. and Katherine Hughes Gibney
Permission to copy and distribute Healthy Computing Email Tips for
personal use is granted. Distribution or copying of Healthy Computing
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Written by Katherine HughesGibney

Explore Wellness in 2021