Plants Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

Plants Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

By: Donna Metallic, RID

We are spending 90% of our time indoors and it’s becoming evident that there’s a huge disconnect between us as human beings and nature. There are simple tools that can help bridge the gap between our indoor spaces and outdoors.  One simple item to improving our indoor air quality, is indoor plants.

Indoor plants can remove all types of air pollutants and improve the wellbeing 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 office 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 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 insulation. 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.

Resources for more information on this important study:http://www.scenichudson.org/planting-seeds-nasa-clean-air-study-3416 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!

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