In our quest to build more energy efficient offices and homes, builders found that one of the best ways to accomplish this was to make the buildings as airtight as possible. This tactic allowed the temperature controlled air to stay in while keeping the outside air out. This practice is common place and is considered a required step for many green building practices. However, this has led to another problem, indoor air pollution caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs,) such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. These compounds have been known to cause cancer, increase risks of asthma and other irritations.
People from all over are spending more time indoors than ever before. In fact some studies estimate that on average we are indoors nearly 80 percent of our lives. This means that our exposure to indoor air pollution is the leading cause of Sick Building Syndrome and has become a real problem that must be addressed.
These issues can lead homeowners and office managers to purchase expensive HEPA filters and air scrubbing systems which leads to more energy consumption, packaging waste and even increased exposure for those that clean the system. There is a more energy efficient solution available and it may surprise you to learn that a common houseplant is the earth’s natural HEPA filter.
How a Simple Houseplant Can Protect Against Sick Building Syndrome
It is common knowledge that plants consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but a NASA study has proven that plants are more powerful than you may think. According to research by environmental scientist Bill Wolverton, plants emit water vapor, generating a pumping action to pull toxic and polluted air down toward the plant’s root system, where it is then processed as food. Wolverton proved that when plants were introduced into an enclosed environment, most of the toxic VOCs had been removed, and Sick Building Syndrome symptoms disappeared.
An article in a recent publication of Reader’s Digest pointed to studies that found when plants were added to an office setting, complaints of stress, fatigue, dry throats and other ailments were reduced. It went on to show that spreading these houseplants around the office or home roughly every 100 square feet provided an optimal level of scrubbing.
The Best Air Filtering Houseplants
There are so many choices when it comes to houseplants and not all plants are created equal when looking for ones that help scrub the air. We have gathered a comprehensive list of the most common and most effective houseplants that can reduce indoor air pollution and keep Sick Building Syndrome at bay. To be clear, there are many other houseplants that do help reduce indoor air pollution, but the ones listed below were the top ones based on research from NASA and other organizations.
- Peace Lily: This plant loves the shade and needs very little sunlight to thrive. It only needs to be watered about once per week and is great for those with or without a green thumb. It has been proven to scrub some of the nastiest cancer causing toxins such as ammonia, xylene, toluene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Be careful cat owners, this plant can be dangerous for them.
- Pot Mum: Often referred to as a mum or by its proper name, chrysanthemum , are very common fixtures in homes. These plants also scrub ammonia, xylene, toluene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene but can sport more color options, making them more appealing to some homeowners. This plant can also harm pets if swallowed but is perfectly safe for people.
- Dracaena Reflexa: Another very popular plant that can be used indoors and outdoors. It prefers bright filtered sunlight, but not direct exposure. It can filter all the toxins that mums and lilies can with the exception of ammonia, which is common in household cleaners. While this has been used in herbal remedies and teas for people, it can be dangerous for pets, so use caution with dogs and cats.
Adding plants to your home or office will not only add a nice decorative touch, it can help create a sustainable earth at the same time. Reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and clean your indoor air naturally with the help from some of Mother Nature’s natural HEPA filters.
So, how do you keep your air clean?
Guest Post Author Bio: Matthew Speer is the founder of iSustainableEarth.com, a site dedicated to providing real solutions for real people – helping everyone embrace a sustainable lifestyle.
Interesting. I never thought of this, but it totally makes sense. I know in my last job they had some plants in the office, but not many. We have a few in our house, but don’t have a lot as it can be a hassle keeping our kids out of them.
I guess this means you need to teach the kids plants are off limits for now. We have some plants in our office and I think it really helps the place feel warm, apart from purifying the air.
This is great. I’ll file this list and see about getting a plant to bring into the office. At home isn’t really a good idea – my cat sees all plants as her personal playground.
There are other houseplants that can help, they may just not be in the top of our list. There is a great chart here for you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_air-filtering_plants
Try spreading coffee around the base. Animals don’t like strong smells. It should help keep them out. Plus it is great fertilizer.
We need more plants in our house, as we definitely do not have enough!
I feel like we are getting too many. We bring in a few plants for the winter so right now our space is getting a tiny bit crowded. I guess we will have some really clean air though. And it looks like a garden which is soothing.
We’ve done a terrible job with this; I don’t want to imagine how polluted our air is. :/ I wrote down the Peace Lily and will look into that. We need to get some plants in our next house!
Find some low maintenance plants that don’t take a lot of care. Bamboo is awesome for this.
I recently decided to get rid of the artificial plants (dust collectors) in my home and replace them with live plants (air purifiers). It’s a learning process to be sure and I’ve killed more than a few plants, but quite a few are thriving and I love the result.
One of the plants you mention – peace lily – is the plant I’ve had the most success with. I’ve managed to keep one we got as a gift when my son was born alive for 17 years. I recently subdivided it into two plants. It really is a super easy variety to keep alive.
Good for you for switching. You are much better off. There are lots of low maintenance plants out there to try. I like bamboo. It is so zen.
Don’t worry about killing a few. We have all gone through that until we have gotten the hang of things.
Bookmarking this, so I can go get peace lilies the next time I’m home!
Good stuff. Let me know how you like it.
I find they make me happier too. I guess they remind me of nature and the tranquility you can find from being outside.
Looks like we could use some plants to replace our air purifiers,it looks amazing. What I am only not sure is whether they are enough effective compared with the modern machine~
Natural plants are a great air cleaner. As you know, most plants on Earth capture CO2 emissions and hence they do wonders for cleaning air. I have two plants in my home and I bet they are doing their job correctly!