NASA knows a thing or two about keeping air clean, sending astronauts into space with a limited amount of breathable air for months on end. After all, they can’t simply open a window when things get stuffy in space.
What NASA researchers have learned about air quality in the home concerning air-cleaning plants, however, is refreshing to say the least.
They’ve found several common houseplant varieties can essentially clean the air of certain chemicals. They tested a variety of plants to see which was best at removing carcinogens like trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and benzene. But, these chemicals aren’t in my home—you might be thinking. And you would be wrong.
According to the NY Times:
Formaldehyde is commonly found in drapes, glues and coating products. Benzene is a component of paint supplies and tobacco smoke, and trichloroethylene is used in adhesives, spot removers and other household products.”
And with asbestos, formaldehyde, and other VOCs leaching off every wall of our home, it’s no surprise that indoor pollution may be causing 50% of illnesses worldwide.
Those headaches you have on a regular basis, where the cause just can’t be pinpointed, may actually be a result of poor air quality in your home. The good news is that you can cleanse the air with air-cleaning plants – what better way to solve a problem than with nature.
Taken from NASA’s ‘Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollutant Abatement‘ report, it reads:
Another promising approach to further reducing trace levels of air pollutants in side future space habitats is the use of higher plants and their associated soil microorganisms. (28-29) Since man’s existence on Earth depends upon a life support system involving an intricate relationship with plants and their associated microorganisms, it should be obvious that when he attempts to isolate himself in tightly sealed buildings away from this ecological system, problems will arise…
In this study the leaves, roots, soil, and associated microorganisms of plants have been evaluated as a possible means of reducing indoor air pollutants. Additionally, a novel approach of using plants stems for removing high concentrations of indoor air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, organic solvents, and possibly radon has been designed from this work.
The plants found to be most effective at purifying the air include:
- Peace lilies
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
- Gerbera daisies
- Snake plants
- Devil’s ivy
Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, of New York University’s School of Medicine says that one plant for every 100 square feet of your home is a good rule of thumb.
Rather than spending several hundred dollars on air purifiers and humidifiers, you can spend a few dollars on a plant and some dirt for the same or even better effects.
And of course there are other air purifying plants you can use as well:
- Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium) – Reduces benzene and formaldehyde, while adding a splash of color in your home.
- Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii) – A great plant for being out of direct sunlight, bamboo palm cleanses the air of formaldehyde.
- Red-Edge dracaena (Dracaena marginata) – This large-growing plant removes benzene and trichloroethylene from its surroundings.
- Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) – Don’t want to baby plants? Try this low-maintenance option that filters formaldehyde.
It’s nearly impossible to get completely away from air pollution. Even if you move to a cave in the mountains, your fire and the smog from nearby areas would reach you. But, if you can decorate your house with air-cleaning plants, you can at least minimize their presence in your most sacred of spaces.
While some insist on moving toward genetically modified plants that produce pharmaceuticals, the rest of us simply want to embrace the natural cleansing capabilities of nature.