In a 1987 study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranked indoor air pollution fourth in cancer risk among the 13 top environmental problems analyzed.
The pollutants are known as VOCs. Volatile organic compounds are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.
Concentrations of many VOCs are regularly higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors where there is open air circulation. These compounds are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.
Some common VOC sources: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, carpet, building materials and furniture, computers, printers, correction fluids, craft materials including glues, adhesives and permanent markers.
The three main household toxins of concern are:
· Ethylene glycol
· Methylene chloride
Short-Term (Acute) to high levels of VOCs
· Eye, nose and throat irritation
· Nausea / Vomiting
· Worsening of asthma symptoms
Long-Term (Chronic) to high levels of VOCs
Increased risk of:
· Liver damage
· Kidney damage
· Central Nervous System damage
NASA researcher Bill Wolverton noticed in the 1960s that swamp plants were eliminating the Agent Orange used in the U.S. military’s biological warfare centers. He discovered that when plants perform photosynthesis, they clean harmful gasses like benzene or formaldehyde out of the air in the process.
The study found that 15-18 houseplants, 6 to 8-inches in diameter, can improve the air quality of the average home. This makes houseplants an aesthetically pleasing, affordable, and eco-friendly alternative to air purifiers.
Two things to remember1. Newer homes and furniture can have higher levels of VOCs in the air2. House plants can help filter these chemicals out of the air
So, luckily there are several plants that filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Lucky for us the plants can also help clean indoor air on Earth, which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air.
Some Popular and Easy to Find Air Purifying House Plants
1. Bamboo Palm(Chamaedorea seifrizii): It removes formaldehyde and is also said to act as a natural humidifier.
2. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): It absorbs nitric oxides and formaldehyde.
3. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens): One of the best air purifying plants for general air cleanliness, the larger the better.
4. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata): Great indoor plant for removing carbon monoxide and other toxins or impurities. Spider plants are one of three plants NASA deems best at removing nitric oxides and formaldehyde from the air.
5. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp) : 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 know to remove formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
6. Gerbera Daisy (Epipremnum aureum): The third top plant according to NASA; Not only do these gorgeous flowers remove benzene from the air, they’re known to improve sleep by absorbing excesses of carbon dioxide and giving off more oxygen over night.
7. Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis): A well known therapy for burns on the skin, it is also known to remove formaldahyde from the air.
8. Marginata or Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata): purifying the air of benzene, formaldahyde, xylene and trichloroethylene from the air.
9. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum syn. Scindapsus aureus): NASA places this plant among the top 3 types of houseplants great for removing formaldhyde. It is also known for removing carbon monoxide.
10. English Ivy (Hedera helix): This plant is said to be fantastic for asthma and allergies and also removes formaldehyde and benzene.
I personally love having houseplants share my living spaces. I love the variety of shapes and colors, how they balance the room and how they promote good health.