Indoor plants can remove all types of air pollutants and improve well being of building occupants. When plants take in oxygen and carbon dioxide, they also pull in VOC’s, toxins that are released by cleaning supplies, printers, and other household items. Plants also release phytochemicals that suppress mold spores and bacteria found in the ambient air.
How do plants function to improve indoor air quality? Nature has equipped plants with the ability to cultivate microbes on and around their roots that can degrade complex organic structures found in leaves. Plant leaves also absorb gaseous organic substances and digest them into their roots where they serve as food to the microbes.
A recent field study conducted by Adjunct Professor from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Margaret Burchett PhD. Researched what plants removed what air pollutants. Here are a few examples of their findings:
- Plant Type: Janet Craig – Three of these plants in a 130-square foot room cuts VOC’s up to 70%
- Plant Type: Peace Lilly – Can boost a room’s humidity by up to 5%. In the winter months, this small increase is enough to relieve dry throats and noses.
- Plant Type: Boston Fern – is the most effective plant to remove the toxic gas formaldehyde.
In a study NASA and ALCA tested primarily for three chemicals: Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Trichloroethylene. Formaldehyde is used in many building materials including particle board and foam insulations. Additionally, many cleaning products contain this chemical. Benzene is a common solvent found in oils and paints. Trichloroethylene is used in paints, adhesives, inks, and varnishes
- Plant Types: English ivy, gerbera daisies, pot mums, peace lily, bamboo palm, and Mother-in-law’s Tongue were found to be the best plants for treating air contaminated with Benzene.
- Plant Types: Peace lily, gerbera daisy, and bamboo palm were very effective in treating Trichloroethylene.
- Plant types; bamboo palm, Mother-in-law’s tongue, dracaena warneckei, peace lily, dracaena marginata, golden pathos, and green spider plant worked well for filtering Formaldehyde.
Below are a few of my top picks:
Spider Plant: Great indoor plant for removing carbon monoxide and other toxins or impurities. Spider plants are one of three plants NASA deems best at removing formaldehyde from the air.
Peace Lily: Peace lilies could be called the “clean-all.” They’re often placed in bathrooms or laundry rooms because they’re known for removing mold spores. Also known to remove formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
Gerbera Daisy: Not only do these gorgeous flowers remove benzene from the air, they’re known to improve sleep by absorbing carbon dioxide and giving off more oxygen overnight.
You may have a plant or two around your house or in your office for a nice accent, but the truth is they are doing a lot more for you than you may suspect!
By: Donna Metallic
Resources for more information on this important study:
PLANTING SEEDS: The NASA clean air study
We’ve made it past February. Ah, spring is near! We’ve done the sledding thing (which was a blast!), the snow boots and parkas have gotten some good wear and tear. And my son’s and husband’s ice hockey bags that clog my front hall seem to have been in perpetual use since October. But even with all our outdoor winter activities, indoor time has been plentiful. I love opening windows to let the fresh air in, but when the wind is howling and snow and sleet are pelting down sometimes that isn’t an option. Basically, our apartment is screaming for a good airing and a good spring cleaning. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors.
Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.” Ugh. What is an eco-mama warrior to do? I stumbled on an interesting report written by B.C. Wolverton, the principal investigator for a study conducted by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America in 1989 that stated, “Another promising approach to further reducing trace levels of air pollutants inside future space habitats is the use of higher plants and their associated soil microorganisms. Since man’s existence on Earth depends upon life support system involving an intricate relationship with plants and their associated microorganisms, it should be obvious that when he attempts to isolate himself in tightly sealed buildings away from this ecological system, problems will arise…At John C. Stennis Space Center, NASA has been attempting to solve this ecological puzzle for 15 years…In this study the leaves, roots, soil, and associated microorganisms of plants have been evaluated as a possible means of reducing indoor air pollutants.”
photo: Else Maria Tennessen
Common house plants can improve indoor air quality.The NASA scientists tested to see how effective various plants (including bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, English ivy, ficus, gerbera daisy, janet craig, marginata, mass cane, mother-in-law’s tongue, peace lily, pot mum and warneckei) were at removing benzene (found in gasoline, inks, oils, plastics detergents, pharmaceuticals and dyes), trichloroethylene (used in dry-cleaning) and formaldehyde (insulation, particle board or pressed-wood products, facial tissues, fire retardants, carpet backing, cigarette smoke) from indoor air. In conclusion, the study discovered that “Low-light-requiring houseplants, have demonstrated the potential for improving indoor air quality by removing trace organic pollutants from the air… ” For instances, during a 24-hour period in a sealed commercial-type greenhouse, the various chemicals were piped into the chamber and plants like the Gerber daisy was able to remove 50 percent of the formaldehyde, 67.7 percent of the benzene and 35 percent of the trichlorethylene.”
B.C. Wolverton went on to write How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office. It’s a great resource. But if purchasing the book seems too ambitious, here is a quick run down of some good options of plants that are not toxic to children:
- Aloe vera — An easy-to-grow plant that can clear formaldehyde from your home. As an added bonus, the Aloe gel is great for helping heal cuts and burns.
- Golden pothos — Great at tackling carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde and also it’s easy to take care of this plant.
- Spider plant — Okay, not the prettiest plant but perfect for the non green-thumbed readers. Don’t need to do much to take care of this resilient plant. Meanwhile the spider plant will be busy removing all kinds of toxins like carbon monoxide from your house.
- Elephant ear philodendron — Great at removing formaldehyde.
- English ivy — Great at removing benzene.
- Ficus — This one is a bit harder keeping happy but you will be happy as it removes formaldehyde from your home.
- Peace lily — This one is good at getting rid of benzene and trichloroethylene.
Keep in mind, a minimum of two plants per 100 square feet of floor space in an average home is recommended, but basically, the more the better. So before the spring comes, go out to the store and bring some nature into your home and breathe a little easier!
2010 — Francesca Olivieri
(TO BE CONTINUED)