Air quality is something that has been in the public eye more and more in recent times. From the smog pollution in major cities to pollution affecting places without factories due to wind patterns, it is important to understand how air quality affects your everyday life. One big combatant against air pollution is plants. Plants, trees and anything that can perform photosynthesis take toxins from the air, such as CO2, and convert it to oxygen or more plant matter. It is the perfect scenario for humans, the removal of bad pollutants and the addition of oxygen. This is why are large forests are often called “carbon sinks”.
The next place to think about when it comes to air pollution is within your own home. Pollutants can come from many different places. Substances like xylene, benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde can be irritants and cause headaches or other symptoms. These chemicals come from paint, lacquers, furniture wax, insect sprays, cleaners, adhesives, air fresheners and more. It is highly likely that your house or office has lots of these pollutants, so you’ll also have to remove them to maintain good health.
Plants have always added beauty to an indoor space, but certain plants could also provide good filtration.
NASA conducted a study on how certain plants can remove the toxins from the air in your house. Their main goal behind this study was to figure out how to purify the air in the International Space Station. They found that many everyday houseplants succeed at accomplishing this task. In this article we will cover 5 of our favorite best air purifying plants.
What was the NASA study?
In 1989, NASA conducted the NASA Clean Air Study to find out ways to purify the air in the International Space Station. They used everyday household plants to see how effective they were. It was a pretty straightforward experiment, they took the plants and placed them in sealed containers. They injected different chemicals (benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene) into these containers and tested the results after 24 hours. The results were better than expected. There was a significant amount of the chemicals removed with the soil and corresponding microorganisms that exist with the plant possibly also assisting in this process.
What plants can remove air pollutants?
The study involved many plants, but here are 5 of our favorite best air purifying plants for you to add to your home or business.
1. Bamboo palm
Bamboo palm sourced via https://bloomscape.com/product/bamboo-palm/
The bamboo palm is a great plant to have not only from an aesthetic standpoint, but also as an air purifier. It is effective against benzene and formaldehyde. They are also good at adding moisture to the air, but only if taken care of properly. This plant is not incredibly difficult to take care of; it needs bright, indirect light, from either a north-facing window or a LED grow light, and only needs to be re-potted every couple of years. It also needs a time-release fertilizer during the growing season.
Check out our blog on the top 5 fertilizer mistakes before adding fertilizer to ensure you don’t harm the plant in the long term. Be sure to know how to properly care for this elegant plant before adding it to your indoor jungle.
2. Chinese evergreen
This plant is good if you’re just starting up your indoor jungle. It needs little light, warm temperatures and can live up to 10 years. You can water it once every 2 weeks as well. Just like the Bamboo palm, the Chinese evergreen can remove formaldehyde and benzene from the air. The only downside to this plant is that it is toxic when ingested. Due to this, it is recommended to keep this plant away from pets and children. Make sure to research through places like ASPCA and your doctor to ensure you know the toxicity levels of certain plants….this way you will only bring kid and pet-friendly plants into your home!
3. English Ivy
English ivy looks great in a pot or on a wall sourced via https://walterpine.com/products/english-ivy
The English ivy is a very versatile plant while also being one of the simpler plants to take care of. This plant filters out trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene, which can be found in products such as nail polish, hair coloring products and more salon products. With this in mind, if you own a salon or like to do at home treatments, you should try having English ivy around to help get rid of the toxins that come from those products. If the English ivy seems like the plant for you, check out our blog on Ivy to learn more about taking care of this beautiful plant.
4. Dragon Tree
Dragon tree are good for aesthetics and filtering the air sourced via https://www.thespruce.com/grow-dracaena-marginata-indoors-1902749
The Dragon tree, known as the Marginata in the NASA study, is yet another easy plant for new growers. They need indirect light, as direct sunlight will burn its leaves. They are also drought tolerant so they can go a while without water. In fact, overwatering can cause the plant to drown and die so be sure to be sparse with your watering sessions. It is good at removing trichloroethylene and formaldehyde and offers a different style of plant to your home or business. The woody stems of dragon trees provide contrast to the others listed on this page and their slender build also allows for them to be placed nearly anywhere without being too intrusive.
5. Mother-in law’s tongue/Snake Plant
Snake plants grow straight up so they can fit in tighter spaces in your room or office via https://pixabay.com/photos/snake-plant-houseplant-4985304/
It is very likely that you have seen this plant around. From malls to office buildings, the snake plant (also known as Mother-in-law’s tongue in the NASA study) is a very popular plant. And for good reason; it is another simple plant to take care of as they do not require much light or water to survive. The snake plant has tall vertical leaves allowing for it to be a good piece to provide separation between furniture or workspaces. According to the NASA study, this plant is one of the best air purifying plants and is good at removing benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Check out our snake plant grow guide to learn more about it!
Why are these chemicals bad?
Chemicals and chemical compounds are all around us. From naturally forming chemicals such as carbon monoxide or methane to man-made chemicals, you come across more than you realize on a daily basis.
Benzene is in many everyday items such as ink, rubber, detergents, dyes and gasoline. It has been a longtime irritant of the eyes and skin, while also being linked to causing some cancers. Inhalation of benzene leads to dizziness, headache, nausea, blurred vision, respiratory diseases, liver and kidney damage and unconsciousness.
This is found in nearly any indoor setting. Formaldehyde comes from some foam insulation, pressed wood products, paper grocery bags, facial tissues, paper towels, water repellants, fire retardants, carpet backing, cigarette smoke and kerosene. This chemical irritates the eyes, nose and throat. Headaches, upper respiratory tract issues and irritation of the eyes are the most common symptoms when inhaling formaldehyde. The EPA has conducted research that indicates that formaldehyde is strongly suspected of causing a rare type of throat cancer long term.
Over 90% of trichloroethylene produced is for dry cleaning industries, printing inks, lacquers, varnishes and adhesives. The National Cancer Institute considers this a strong liver carcinogen (can cause cancer).
This may sound dire and cause you to be fearful of anything and everything in your home, but do not fear, these side effects only appear after constant and repeated exposure to high amounts. The amount in your house will likely not cause all of this, but why not have a plant or two to remove these chemicals from the air. These plants will not only provide beauty in the form of interior décor, but also will provide assistance in keeping the air quality in your home or office space as pure as possible.