Did you know that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates indoor air to be typically two to five times more polluted than the air outside, and in extreme cases, as much as 100 times more contaminated? This dire state is attributed not just to dust and bacteria, rather the dangerous off-gasses of building materials, carpets, toxic paints and cleaning products that are used in your house. Plants can actually help to minimize the air quality risks in your home by removing the potent chemicals, leaving only the cleanest air indoors.
THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUSE PLANTS
According to Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP, president of Plant Solutions, Inc., more than 900 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can fill your indoor air, some of which include detrimental chemicals such as formaldehyde, xylene (cleaning agent, paint thinner), benzene (detergents, tobacco smoke, plastics, synthetic fibers), chloroform/trichloroethylene (metal degreasing, dry-cleaning, paints, adhesives), ammonia and acetone. He also confirms that research has proven VOCs may cause nausea, headaches, coughs, fatigue, dry skin and sore throats – all because of poor indoor air quality.
Let’s take a step back to elementary school when you learned about photosynthesis for a moment. Plants convert carbon dioxide into food, releasing oxygen as a byproduct. What scientists have more recently found is that plants can also convert VOCs into carbon-based materials to fuel photosynthesis. Zazzera continues, “This is actually a bimimicry action; there is no other known way to convert these compounds into something harmless. Plants can do something even our most complicated HVAC systems can’t and are a terrific way to supplement the HVAC system in a home or building.”
NASA research recommends having one plant of an 8-inch diameter pot or larger per 100 to 160 square feet of indoor space to improve indoor air quality. Zazzera adds, “The studies have shown that upon initial installation, VOCs were removed within four to five days; any added VOCs (by addition of furniture, etc.) are removed within 24 hours. This shows that plants get better at processing VOCs.”
PLANTS THAT IMPROVE YOUR INDOOR AIR QUALITY
Here is your shopping list of plants to buy for a healthy home!
In a study by NASA, when a peace lily was enclosed in a locked chamber for 24 hours with high pollutants of tricholoroethylene (TCE), benzene and formaldehyde, it removed vast amounts of the chemicals, effectively cleaning the air in the chamber. Not only is this plant simple and elegant with its white blooms, it is easy to care for, requires minimal sunlight, and can make your room more livable.
According to Green Plants for Green Buildings, and the book How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Plants that Purify Your Home or Office by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, in a study of 50 plants rated on ease of growth, maintenance, resistance to pests, efficiency at removing chemical toxins from the air and transpiration rates, the Boston fern showed the greatest ability “for removing air pollutants, especially formaldehyde, and for adding humidity to the indoor environment.” It is often suspended in a basket or displayed on a pedestal, and always a great addition to your home.
In the NASA study, the Areca Palm, one of the most popular plants, scored 8.5 out of 10 when tested for air purification abilities. Green Plants for Green Buildings confirms, “It is tolerant of the indoor environment, releases copious amounts of moisture into the air, removes chemical toxins, and is also beautiful to look at.” This hardy plant requires semi-sunlight and is perfect for a home or office.
The Ficus Alii has been found to effectively purify indoor air and has a high resistance to insects, according to Green Plants for Green Buildings and Wolverton. This cousin to the well-known Ficus Benjamina scored a 7.7 out of 10 in NASA’s air purification tests. It is also ranked high for its ease of growth.
MADAGASCAR DRAGON TREE
The Madagascar dragon tree has the triple threat, effectively ridding air of benzene, formaldehyde and tricholorethylene. This tree survives in moderate to low light levels with moist soil. It is also a flexible plant that allows you to maneuver it to make creative formations with the stalks.
MORE HEALTHY PLANTS:
Dwarf date palm
Dracaena Janet Craig