For long, potted plants have been touted as a solution to the sick building syndrome, a range of symptoms that leaves people feeling tired and irritable but with no specific illness. But, Peter Dingle of Australia's Murdoch University thinks it is a "great urban myth". He set up five cabins within a floor space of 8 square metres each. He found that with up to 10 plants in a cabin, concentrations of formaldehyde, a toxic chemical, did not change. With 20 plants, the chemical levels reduced only marginally. Thus, Dingle concludes that the effect of plants is only psychological. However, Jeff Llewellyn of Building Research Establishment in Britain, says these factors should not be underestimated ( New Scientist , Vol 165, No 2221).
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