Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review-"How To Grow Fresh Air" by Dr. B..C. Wolverton

We had our first frost this week, which meant there was an evening when we had to speedily bring in all the potted plants that have spent the warm weather outside, enjoying the extra sunlight and fresh rainwater. Finding room for them inside, especially accounting for their sunlight needs was tricky, because we already have a certain number of houseplants that reside indoors year 'round. This year we also have a large contingent of green things that have moved home with our daughter, who appears to have inherited her love of plants from me. She had a large, sunny bedroom in an old house she shared with some other girls on campus, and a couple of her plant-children are pretty big. We now have plants stuffed in nearly every nook and cranny that is anywhere near a window!

As much as I love houseplants for their beauty, and the homeyness I think they lend to any room, there is another good reason to have them. In his book "How To Grow Fresh Air", Dr. B. C. Wolverton synthesizes 25 years of research on indoor air quality, and explains how we can prevent Sick Building Syndrome, which can cause allergic and respiratory problems. Since most Americans spend about 95% of their time indoors, this is very important information.

Wolverton worked for NASA, teaming with others to find ways to keep air breathable in space stations, and potentially in sealed modular housing that could be used to inhabit other planets. They studied what chemicals building materials, furniture, and appliances and electronics off-gas into the indoor atmosphere, and which plants most effectively remove certain gasses and toxins.
I appreciated the careful explanation of what chemicals are present in our buildings, and what effect they have on our health. Wolverton is able to make this information accessible to some one like me, who does not have a strong background in chemistry. He gives a clear review of the process of plant respiration.

After you learn all this information, there is a good chapter on caring for the plants. Then, most helpful of all, is an extensive list of plants to choose from, with photos, care information, and an explanation of which chemicals that particular plant is good at removing from the environment. For instance, some plants are very useful used in close proximity to computer equipment, some are especially good in bedrooms, since they do more of their breathing at night, when you are sleeping there, and so on.

I loved this book for it's readability, accessible research, and the way it broadened my understanding of the symbiotic relationship we have with the plant kingdom. If you are new to the houseplant world, you should be able to get off to a good start with the growing information. If you are an old hand at it, you will still learn plenty of interest to you. If you are interested in environmental issues, and how to live in a less toxic space, this book would definitely be of use to you, as well.

I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
For more book reviews, go check out The Blogging Bookworm.


Rose said...

I will put this on my reading list, Joyce! I've known for years that houseplants are good for your home, but I gave up on most of mine several years ago when I just didn't have time to keep up with them. Now that I have more time, I really need to add a few. I'm particularly interested in finding out the ones that are good for computers--my computer still isn't fixed!

Green Bean said...

I have to say that my house is houseplant free. I may have to rethink it now, Joyce, but I'm not sure I can keep another thing alive and safe from my boys! ;-)

Joyce said...

Rose-I'll have to do some research to see which plants are tech geeks. So far, none of mine have volunteered for that job at our house.
GB-I lost a few to wild games of pretend when the kids were younger (Me:"You guys need to go play outside!!"). Despite my making them clean up the mess when they did one in, they all love houseplants now. I guess they think it's a requirement for a properly furnished home.

Donna said...

I'm with green bean -- I have no houseplants, and if I did, I can just imagine what Andrew would do to them! But the real reason is that for some crazy reason I just have a mindblock about watering them. I'll water my outdoor plants every day, but a houseplant just has to fend for itself. Not an easy task. And then both the plant and me have to suffer the teasing from my husband who always wants to know what the poor plant did to get put into Gitmo. Sigh.

But you have a very good point, and maybe I'll have to check out the book sometime.

Joyce said...

Donna, I always thought houseplants were easier than outdoor gardening- no weeds! I have lost my fair share of plants. I think the problem is finding them the right amount of light. Once I do that, I just water them all every Monday, and in April I stick in a fertilizer stick, and that's about it.

Lady Sterling said...

Ooo, ooo, ooo, I love this book. I have this one. I was trying to find good ways to clean the air naturally as well as find good natural non-toxic cleaners. We started to get some of the plants in the book, but I now only have one because of moves. Need to get more and I was just looking at this book a couple of months ago reviewing what plants I should get. Thanks for reminding me!