How Houseplants Fight Indoor Air Pollution

Posted by Jason Wyrwicz on Jul 12th 2019

With never-ending news stories about the poor air quality in cities and depressing gray pictures of smoggy skylines, it's no wonder that most Americans assume that their indoor air quality is better than the quality outdoors. However, the quality of indoor air is, on average, two to five times worse than that of outdoor air, and in fact, the EPA rates indoor air pollution as one of the five greatest public health risks.

One way to fight indoor air pollution? Air-filtering plants. Air-filtering plants can help keep the air in your home, office, or other business clean. These are some of the plants we recommend adding to your home and around your business to improve air quality.

infographic on air quality and house plants that improve it

Poor indoor air quality can cause or worsen the development of infections, lung cancer, and chronic lung diseases, such as asthma; it can also cause symptoms such as headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea, and fatigue. Perhaps most significantly, poor air quality is a leading cause of asthma attacks, which leads to 10 million lost school days and 14 million lost work days annually, according to the CDC.

However, improving air pollution and air quality (both indoors and outdoors) could have a valuable effect on the world's health and happiness. For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a reduction in air pollution can lead to a lower risk of stroke and heart disease. Also, a 2015 study from the University of Queensland in Australia found that adding indoor plants to an office can increase employee productivity by 15%.

Instead of purchasing a fancy air filter, many home and office residents are taking a more natural approach to filtering air: by adding certain indoor plants known for their toxin-removing properties to the indoor environment.

How Houseplants Filter Your Air

In 1989, the NASA Clean Air Study found that several common indoor plants could naturally remove toxic agents from the air (such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene) while also neutralizing sick building syndrome. Even better? These plants tend to be tough and resilient, giving even the gardener with a black thumb the chance to nurture a houseplant.

The peace lily, for example, filters benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene, toluene, and trichloroethylene. This easily-maintained houseplant requires only low light and a steady temperature between 65-80 degrees. English ivy filters benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, trichloroethylene, and carbon monoxide, and it thrives in a wide variety of light and temperature levels; however, it is toxic to humans and animals.

For a truly low maintenance plant, consider the red-edged dracaena, which can survive with little water or fertilizer. The Chinese evergreen, similarly, is user-friendly and forgiving, although it is mildly toxic to humans and animals.

If you suspect your environment to have high levels of formaldehyde (a common allergen often found in resins and other building materials), spider plants are one of the most effective plants at removing formaldehyde. Overall, the areca palm is the most efficient plant for indoor filtering, according to the NASA Clean Air Study; make sure to give it good drainage, as it's prone to root rot.

Your houseplants aren't merely decoration for your home or office. They can serve double-duty by filtering your indoor air quality and lessening your risk of chronic lung diseases, infections, and even lung cancer- no green thumb required.

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