The use of ornamental plants in interiorscapes is increasingly being studied for their ability to remove volatile organic compounds, thereby improving the air quality of indoor environments (Kim et al., 2008; Yoo et al., 2006). Deterioration of indoor air quality can result in “multiple chemical sensitivity,” “new house syndrome,” and “sick building syndrome” and a cross-section of adverse physical symptoms for those exposed (e.g., allergies, frequent fatigue, asthma, headache, a feeling of uneasiness) (Jones, 1999; Kostiainen, 1995). 2-Ethyl-1-hexanol, formaldehyde, and benzene are common indoor pollutants that are detrimental to health and are emitted from a cross-section of materials found inside buildings (Orwell et al., 2004). The indoor concentration of benzene and toluene was reduced by Hedera helix L., Spathiphyllum wallisii Regal, Syngonium podophyllum Schott., and Cissus rhombifolia Vahl. (Yoo et al., 2006). There are substantial differences in the rate of removal resulting from the chemical characteristics of the volatile, plant species, and ambient conditions; as a consequence, a mixture of species is recommended for effective biofiltration (Orwell et al., 2004).
In addition to the removal of pollutants, plants also release a diverse cross-section of volatiles into the surrounding environment. Three primary pathways (isoprenoid, shikimic acid, and the oxidative cleavage and decarboxylation of various fatty acids) are responsible for the synthesis of many of the volatile compounds (Kays and Paull, 2004), some of which have distinct biological roles [e.g., attraction of pollinators, protection against pathogens or herbivories, enhanced thermotolerance (Dudareva et al., 2004; Pichersky et al., 2006)]. A cross-section of plant-derived volatiles also plays important roles in scent and flavor. For example, volatile compounds (e.g., 2- and 3-methylbutanal, 3-methylbutanol, phenyl acetaldehyde, 2-phenylethanol, methyl salicylate) derived from amino acids in tomato play an important role in characterizing tomato flavor (Goff and Klee, 2006). Several terpenoid compounds [e.g., camphene, p-cymene, δ-3-carene, α-humulene, limonene, linalool, (E)-β-ocimene, α-pinene, β-thujone] contribute to the fragrance of Heliotropium arborescens (Kays et al., 2005). In addition, volatiles synthesized in some plants have specific health properties: curcumin in turmeric (anti-inflammatory and antitumor activities); curcumene, gingerol, and gingerone in ginger (antioxidant and antitumor activities); and camphor and methyl cinnamate in galangal (antimicrobial activity) (Goff and Klee, 2006). Although significant advances have been made in the identification of critical odorants, much less is known about volatiles that have little or no odor and on the dynamics of the interaction between indoor plants and air quality.
The objective of this study was to identify and quantify volatiles emanating from four popular potted indoor ornamental species, establish the source of the volatiles, and determine if the rate of emanation differed between day and night.
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