Plants Improve Indoor Air Quality

AN INSIDE PROBLEM

Apr. 17, 2017Long-term exposure can cause asthma, developmental problems in children, and decreased lung function. It can also aggravate a host of conditions that an individual may already have.



However, most of the time when we think air pollution, images of cars, trucks, and factories come to mind, right? We think of the emissions that are clogging up and destroying our ozone. Therefore we tend to believe air pollution as more of an outside problem.

But the truth is, there is a lot of air pollution right inside our homes that we probably don’t even know about. In fact, indoor pollution can actually be worse than outdoor pollution!

So, what’s the deal with indoor air pollution?

Well, indoor air pollution is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs come from our furniture, paint, clothing, cleaning products, cosmetics, personal care products, and of course, mattresses (especially those made with petroleum-based polyurethane foams).

VOCs can cause things like skin, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and headaches. More serious potential effects are liver, kidney, and central nervous system problems. Some VOCs have even been found to cause cancer in animals, and others in humans.

What can we do about it?

Since VOCs are found in so many of the products we use in our home every day, it would be quite difficult to just get rid of them at the source. But don’t fret; there are several things you can do to start decreasing the levels of VOCs in your home:

  • Open the windows and ventilate whenever you get a chance, but especially when using cleaning products or painting.
  • Keep exposure to a minimum: follow the directions on household products, don’t mix them, and don’t store unused paint cans in the home.
  • Begin making the transition to safer products.
  • Get an air purifier.
  • Get some indoor plants!

Indoor plants are very effective at reducing indoor air pollution. Plus, they are a more eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to an air purifier, which contains air filters that require careful disposal (whereas houseplants dispose of the pollutants themselves).

There are a lot more variations of indoor plants that help get rid of indoor air pollution than you might think! And the best part is, most of them aren’t very difficult to care for.

10 BEST HOUSEPLANTS TO REDUCE INDOOR AIR POLLUTION

1. GARDEN MUM

Which VOCs it combats best: ammonia, benzene (from chemical-based cleaners, paints and more), formaldehyde (pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials), and xylene (gasoline and aircraft)

How to care for it: Garden mums are inexpensive and can be purchased at garden stores. Place your mum in a location that gets bright light from the outdoors during the day, but isn’t hit by a street or porch light during the night. Check the water level daily, watering under the leaves when the top 1 inch of the soil becomes dry. Once the blooms are gone (after a few weeks), you can replant it outside!

2. ALOE VERA

Which VOCs it combats best: formaldehyde, benzene

How to care for it: Place your Aloe Vera plant in indirect sunlight or artificial light. Water the soil all the way through but then allow it to dry 1 to 2 inches deep between waterings. You can also use the juice from the leaves to relieve skin rashes, burns, and scrapes!

3. SPIDER PLANT

Which VOCs it combats best: benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene (leather, rubber, and printed paper products)

How to care for it: If you lack a green thumb, Spider plants are one of the easiest plants to grow. Spider plants like indirect sunlight and dry soil, so water moderately. Snip off the dead, brown tips as needed.

4. GERBERA DAISY

Which VOCs it combats best: trichloroethylene (dry cleaning)

How to care for it: Make sure your Gerbera daisy pot has drainage holes because they like well-drained soil. Mist leaves a couple times a week and put it in direct sunlight.

5. SNAKE PLANT

Which VOCs it combats best: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene

How to care for it: Snake plants like dry conditions and some light, which makes them a difficult houseplant to kill. Putting one in your bathroom will help filter out the pollutants from personal care products while thriving in the low light and steam. And placing one in your bedroom can actually give you an oxygen boost while you sleep since Snake plants actually absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night (the opposite of what most plants do!).

6. DRACAENA

Which VOCs it combats best: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene

How to care for it: There are many different varieties of Dracaena plants, so care will differ slightly depending on which type you get. These plants can range from 3 feet to 15 feet tall and range widely in color and variation, so you’re sure to find one that’s a perfect fit for your home. However, pet owners will want to steer away from this one as it can be toxic to cats and dogs when eaten!

7. WEEPING FIG (FICUS)

Which VOCs it combats best: benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene

How to care for it: Grow your ficus tree in bright, indirect sunlight and let the soil dry out in between waterings and it will grow to be between two and ten feet tall.

8. BAMBOO PALM

Which VOCs it combats best: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

How to care for it: The Bamboo plant thrives in bright light and humidity (so don’t overwater it!) and they can grow up to four to 12 feet tall. The bigger the plant gets, the more effective it is at filtering your air. They’re also pet-friendly!

9. PEACE LILY

Which VOCs it combats best: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene (paint thinners)

How to care for it: The Peace Lily is another plant that’s quite easy to care for. Keep in a shaded area and water about once a week, letting the soil dry out in between. Your lily will tell you when it’s thirsty by drooping. In the Summer, spritz the leaves with water to keep it hydrated as well. These flowers also give off a great scent.

10. BOSTON FERN

Which VOCs it combats best: formaldehyde and xylene

How to care for it: Boston ferns need a good soak in water about once a month. Other than that, check back daily to make sure it’s staying moist. They like high humidity and indirect light, so this is another good option for the bathroom.

 

Abigail Davidson

By Abigail Davidson

 —  Abigail is a passionate writer and advocate of mental health and consumer consciousness. If she's not working, you'll probably find her reading (mostly memoirs), hiking, attending a Reds game, or planning her next travel adventure. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband.

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