Houseplants That Filter the Air We Breathe

The quality of the air we breath and houseplants are becoming closer and closer related everyday. Many physicians recommend a relaxing hobby like gardening for their patients suffering from stress related illnesses. But it has been found that cultivating plants indoors may also lower the risk of asthma, allergies and “Sick Building Syndrome.” The Environmental Protection Agency has cited indoor air pollution as one of the top five public health threats in America, and the main culprit in the sixty percent rise in asthma over the last decade. Now researchers are looking to houseplants for a solution to help with polluted indoor air. With the release of the extensive NASA study on using houseplants to filter air the question is posed: What houseplants will filter air the best? With the exception of the dwarf banana plant which is a fairly unusual plant, the bulk of the list of plants NASA tested reads like a “Who’s Who” of the interior plant world. They are:

· Ficus benjamina known as Weeping fig
· Hedera helix known as English ivy
· Chlorophytum comosum known as spider plant
· Epipiremnum aureum known as golden pothos
· Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa” known as peace lily
· Aglaonema modestum known as Chinese evergreen
· Chamaedorea sefritzii known as bamboo or reed palm
· Sansevieria trifasciata known as snake plant
· Philodendron scandens oxycardium known as heartleaf philodendron
· Philodendron domesticum known as elephant ear philodendron
· Dracaena marginata known as red-edged dracaena
· Dracaena fragrans Massangeana known as cornstalk dracaena
· Dracaena deremensis known as “Janet Craig”

Using houseplants can be very beneficial in our lives. These plants can purify and renew our stale indoor air by filtering out toxins, pollutants and the carbon dioxide we exhale and best of all replace them with life sustaining oxygen.

Although it can be safe to assume that all plants are capable of removing toxins from our air, the research done by NASA showed that some house plants are more efficient in filtering out toxins than others. The houseplants known as Philodendrons, Spider plants, and Pothos were found to be the most efficient in the removal of formaldehyde. Gerbera Daisies and Chrysanthemums were found to be highly effective in the removal of benzene which is a known carcinogen.

Most plant experts state as a rule of thumb, allow one houseplant per 100 square feet of living area. It is important to keep in mind that the more vigorous the plant, the more air it can filter. Yet it is also important to realize that plants will not do much to alleviate tobacco smoke or dust in the air.

Despite the results of several studies (including NASA’s work) there are skeptics that remain. Some researchers are unconvinced that houseplants can make a real difference in air quality. Many researchers feel that the conditions that were used to study plants in a lab versus a “real life” situation make the results of houseplants filtering air not reliable when placed in the real world. Many researchers also feel that the density of plants needed to make a difference in air quality would be unrealistic within the space confines of home or office.

Researchers who favor the results of houseplants that filter air are working to overcome the obstacles thrown at them by the skeptics. Growing plants hydroponically (in water) overcomes some of the problems stated in terms of space and density and humidity needed. Filters using hydroponic plants, fans and activated charcoal will be on the market within a year, and many researchers feel will improve air purification as much as two hundred-fold. This is due to the fact that hydroponically-grown plants do not produce mold spores, and are easy to maintain. These plants were tested against empty rooms and it was found that in home tests, rooms devoid of plants had airborne microbe levels fifty percent higher than plant-filled rooms.

The debate may rage on as to whether houseplants clean the air or not(and there’s plenty of evidence that they do) but regardless, houseplants will continue to decorate the homes of people who appreciate bringing the outside inside.