Studies have shown that indoor pollution can be worse than outdoor pollution, especially during the winter months when we seal ourselves up inside our houses and apartments. Timothy Buckley, Ph.D., MHS, and associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, warns, “Sealing up windows and doors saves money on the bill, it’s true….But who doesn’t cook, and burn candles, and bring home the dry-cleaning and household products, and buy new clothes? A low air-exchange rate means that whatever fumes are in there are going to stay there and that’s we’re going to have to inhale them.”
Health Dangers of Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air pollution can cause a lot of problems, including exacerbating the severity of asthma symptoms among adults and children, increasing the occurrence and severity of headaches and respiratory symptoms, and causing fatigue and dizziness. Studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) consistently rank indoor air pollution as among the top five environmental threats to public health. The United Nations Development Program estimated in 1998 that more than two million people die each year due to toxic indoor air.
Opening a window once in awhile, investing in a quality air purifier, dusting and vacuuming often, keeping up with the cleaning, and avoiding pollutants like smoke from candles and cigarettes, can all help improve indoor air quality. When it’s cold outside, however, and difficult to air things out, there are other items that can help reduce the toxins in your household air-houseplants!
The Magic of Houseplants
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that common houseplants like the spider plant, snake plant, and golden pothos reduced ozone levels. NASA also conducted a similar study and found that common houseplants can remove several key pollutants associated with indoor air pollution. In fact, NASA was so impressed that they’re going to launch some plants into space as part of the biological life support system aboard future orbiting space stations.
What Plants Clean Out What Chemicals
According to the NASA study, some of the top plants most effective at cleaning out potentially hazardous chemicals like formaldehyde (found in insulation, particle board, and consumer paper products), benzene (found in inks, oils, paints, plastics, and rubber), and carbon monoxide from the air include the areca palm (also called the butterfly palm), the lady palm, bamboo palm, rubber plant, philodendron, dracaena “Janet Craig,” and the Boston fern.
Alive magazine published a recent article about houseplants and indoor pollution, and the following chart comes from that article, which you may read in depth here. Give it a try-you may find that a few more plants makes your air a lot more pleasant to breathe.
|bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifritzii)||benzene, formaldehyde, TCE|
|common ivy, English ivy (Hedera helix)||benzene, formaldehyde, TCE, toluene, octane, terpene|
|Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis)||benzene, formaldehyde, TCE|
|mass cane (Dracaena massangeana)||benzene, formaldehyde, TCE|
|peace lily (Spathiphyllum)||benzene, formaldehyde, TCE|
|pot mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)||benzene, formaldehyde, TCE|
|purple heart, wandering Jew (Tradescantia pallida)||benzene, TCE, toluene, terpene|
|red ivy (Hemigraphis alternata)||benzene, TCE, toluene, octane, terpene|
|spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum, Chlorophytum elatum)||formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide|
|Sprenger’s asparagus (Asparagus densiflorus)||benzene, TCE, toluene, octane, terpene|
|weeping fig, ficus tree (Ficus benjamina)||benzene, formaldehyde, TCE, octane, terpene|
|wax plant (Hoya carnosa)||benzene, TCE, toluene, octane, terpene|
Have you increased the number of houseplants in your home to help clean out the air? Please share your experiences.
“It’s Winter: Beware the Indoor Air Pollution,” Public Health News Center, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, January 26, 2005. http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/articles/2005/buckley_indoor_air.html.
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Indoor Air Pollution Increases Asthma Symptoms, Study Suggests.” ScienceDaily, 19 Feb. 2009. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
Illinois Department of Public Health Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality, Environmental Health Fact Sheet, Illinois Department of Public Health. http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/indoorairqualityguide_fs.htm.
American Society for Horticultural Science. “Houseplants Cut Indoor Ozone.” ScienceDaily, 8 Sep. 2009. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
“NASA Study House Plants Clean Air,” Zone 10, The Plant & Garden Zone for Homeowners. http://www.zone10.com/nasa-study-house-plants-clean-air.html.
Will Richter, “The Best Holiday Houseplants,” Alive, http://www.alive.com/articles/view/23316/the_best_holiday_houseplants.
Greg Seaman, “The Top 10 Plants for Removing Indoor Toxins,” EarthEasy, May 13, 2009. http://eartheasy.com/blog/2009/05/the-top-10-plants-for-removing-indoor-toxins/.