Plants Help Clean Indoor Air


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — whose job it is to set standards and monitor outdoor air quality — estimates that indoor air can be two- to five-times more polluted than the air outdoors.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to keep your indoor air free of pollutants. A HEPA (high efficiency particle air) filter can remove 99.97% of all airborne particles. Another great option is to use indoor plants.

Houseplants are very efficient at removing indoor air contaminants, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, which result from burning wood.

According to a NASA study, spider plants (Chlorophytum elatum), after being placed in a closed chamber for 24 hours, reduced levels of carbon monoxide by 96% and nitrogen oxides by 99%.

Plants also remove formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. These chemicals, and other gases, can be released by particleboard (used to make bookcases, desks, and tables), insulation, paint and interior furnishings, such as carpets, curtains and upholstered furniture. Such items — especially when new — tend to "gas off," that is, release micro amounts of chemicals into the air. These are also referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

A single Boston fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata bostoniensis) can remove formaldehyde (found in glue, furniture, carpeting, etc.) at a rate of 1,863 micrograms per hour and xylene (found in paints, adhesives, rust preventers, etc.) at a rate of 208 micrograms per hour.

Plants that are most effective at removing contaminants tend to have large leaf surfaces, such as heart-leaf (Philodendron scandens), elephant ear (Philodendron domesticum), peperomia (Peperomia obtusifolia) and peace lily (Spathiphyllum clevelandii).

The study recommends at least fifteen 10- to 12-inch container plants for a 1,800-square-foot home. Plants should be located near where you spend most of your time indoors.

See Also:
Air Purifying Plants to Improve Indoor Air Quality