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Published on September 26th, 2011 | by Sonya Kanelstrand


10 Houseplants That Clean Indoor Air

10 Houseplants That Clean Indoor Air

With the advance of Autumn the time we spend indoors grows by leaps. But the air at home or in the office is very often saturated with pollutants we don’t even think about. Although there are many toxins depending on the floor and counter-tops covering, the insulation, the carpets and fabrics, or simply the cleaning detergents we use, the 3 main chemicals most commonly met in our homes are:

+ Formaldehyde – a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent odor. It is an important precursor to many other chemical compounds, especially for polymers. Because of its widespread use, toxicity and volatility, exposure to formaldehyde is a significant consideration for human health. Formaldehyde is officially described by the US National Toxicology Program as “known to be a human carcinogen”. It can be found in foam insulation and pressed wood products used for the production of office furniture. It is also present in paper products such as waxed paper, paper towels, facial tissues, even grocery bags.

+ Trichloroethylenes – a clear non-flammable liquid with a sweet smell mostly found in adhesives, paints, dyes, printing inks, as well as in industrial solvents and therefore used widely in the dry cleaning industry. Beyond the effects to the central nervous system, exposure to trichloroethylene has been associated with toxic effects in the liver and kidney. The symptoms are similar to those of alcohol intoxication – headache, dizziness and  unconsciousness.

+ Benzene – a component of solvents, which is present in synthetic rubber, plastic, inks, paints and is used in the manufacture of detergents, pharmaceuticals, and dyes. It targets the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys and liver. Benzene is linked to cancer, anemia, leukemia, and bone marrow abnormalities. The short-term breathing of high levels of benzene may result in death while low levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, and unconsciousness.

According to the NASA Clean Air Study, a number of green and flowering houseplants play an important role in cleaning the air we breath and can remove toxic chemicals from the air indoors.

So, prepare some pots for detoxing houseplants’ arrival!

1. Dracaena Deremensis  is native to tropical Africa and is one of the most popular Draceanas used indoors, mainly because of its ability to grow in poor light conditions and its tolerance to dry soil. Perfect for neutralizing formaldehyde from the air in your home.

2. Philodendron can be found in many diverse habitats in the tropical Americas and the West Indies. The name derives from the Greek words philo or (love) and dendron or (tree). It thrives in moist soils with high organic matter and can survive at lower light than other house plants. Although Philodendrons can survive in dark places they much prefer bright lights. They are especially great at removing formaldehyde from the air.

3. Ficus benjamina commonly known as the Weeping Fig, Benjamin’s Fig, or the Ficus Tree and often sold in stores as just a “Ficus” is a species of fig tree, native to south and southeast Asia and Australia. It is a very popular house plant in temperate areas, due to its elegant growth and tolerance of poor growing conditions. It does best under bright, sunny conditions but will also tolerate considerable shade.

4. Hedera helix or English Ivy is native to most of Europe and western Asia, labeled as an invasive species in many parts of the U.S. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant. In the past, the leaves and berries were taken orally to treat cough and bronchitis. But because of toxins also contained in the plant, it should only be used under the consultation of a qualified practitioner. The leaves can cause severe contact dermatitis in some people.

5. Aglaonema or Chinese evergreen is originally found in the tropical areas of Southeast Asia. A large group of people in Asia believe that growing your own Chinese Evergreen is a good omen and will bring you luck. They are popular houseplants and ornamental plants for offices and shopping malls because they are among the easiest houseplants to grow. They tolerate a wide range of light, as well as neglect, and are relatively resistant to pests. Aglaonema flourish for years.

6. Sansevieria Laurentii or Mother in Law’s Tongue Native to Africa, this plant has long spear-shaped green leaves and is pretty much indestructible – it can be placed almost anywhere, doesn’t require much watering or light and takes up little space. The one climatic condition which it will not tolerate is temperatures below 45 degrees for extended periods. Proved to remove formaldehyde from the air.

7. Chlorophytum comosum or Spider Plant is native to South Africa. It is a grass-like perennial in the lily family, and is especially popular with beginners, as it is easy to grow and propagate and is very tolerant of neglect, being able to thrive in a wide range of conditions. Spider plants have also been shown to reduce formaldehyde in the air at home.

8. Gerbera Daisy is an ornamental plant, very popular and widely used as a decorative garden plant or as cut flowers. Effective in removing both benzene and trichloroethylene from the air.

9. Chrysanthemum  is a perennial flowering plant native to Asia and northeastern Europe. The name Chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek, chrysos (gold) and anthos (flower). benzene Trichloroethylene Formaldehyde

10. Spathiphyllum or Peace Lily is found on the forest floor in the rain forests of tropical America. This explains its ability to cope with poor lighting indoors.  Although Peace Lilies are ideal for dark corners, they will grow well in brighter light as long as they aren’t subjected to hot direct sun. It is found to neutralize both benzene and trichloroethylene.

Until recently, nobody suspected there could be anything like indoor air pollution. With the development of technology and the better insulation of buildings in the past decades to save heating costs and to conserve energy, the air indoors gradually grew more stagnant allowing for common household pollutants to accumulate and in turn affect our health. Using plants at home or in the office therefore should be done not only with decorative purposes but also to aim at improving the quality of the air we breathe.

Leaf image via Shutterstock

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About the Author

Sonya is a photographer and a creative artist sharing her Scandinavian experiences. Her blog Kanelstrand Organic Living has become the meeting point of a vibrant green community of eco-conscious artists and crafters from around the world. Sonya believes that people and nature can co-exist together in a healthy and inspiring union without harming each other. She implements the knowledge gained from studying Philology and Pedagogy in her approach to sustainable and eco-friendly living.

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