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SHORTCUTS

Clearing the Air Just Got More Natural

March 24, 1997|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA

To: The Boss

From: Workers Everywhere

Re: Clutter

Remember the memo you sent out recently, the one asking for our desks to be cleared of family photos, globe balls and miniature rodent collections? We can live without all that stuff, but when it comes to our heart-leaf philodendrons, our Kimberely queen ferns and our dwarf date palms, "Back off, Buddy!"

These and other leafy life forms--from weeping figs to peace lilies--help remove toxic vapors from the air while producing oxygen, adding moisture and filtering toxins in our offices so we can be happy little workers.

It's a scientific fact according to "How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office" (Penguin Books) by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, a scientist and NASA researcher who says that the use of houseplants will be the technology of choice for improving air quality in the 21st century.

Horticulture has come to the rescue in this new guidebook, complete with more than 100 photographs, descriptions on how to grow and care for plants and an overall rating for the removal of chemical vapors, ease of growth, resistance to insect infestation and transpiration rate. Here are a few examples:

* Areca Palm (with the highest rating of 8.5) "is consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins tested. It also has the unique ability to move salt accumulations to selected branches. Its high marks in all rated categories make the areca one of the top 'eco-friendly' houseplants."

* Lady Palm (also 8.5) "is one of the easiest houseplants to care for and is highly resistant to attack by most plant insects. It is also one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality."

* Bamboo Palm (8.4) "pumps much needed moisture into the indoor atmosphere, especially during winter months when heating systems dry the air. This palm is also one of the top-rated plants tested for the removal of benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde."

* Boston Fern (7.5) "is the best [of the plants tested] for removing air pollutants, especially formaldehyde, and for adding humidity to the indoor environment."

* Snake Plant (6.3) "is almost indestructible. The snake plant differs from most houseplants in that it produces oxygen and removes carbon dioxide at night."

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