I suspect the overwhelming majority of us grow indoor plants because they enhance our indoor décor but did you know that you just might be improving the quality of the air in your home too? While you might think this is a recent development the study that confirmed that indoor plants improve air quality actually occurred in the late 1980’s. NASA was investigating ways that air quality in space station facilities could be improved and in conjunction with the Associated Landscape Contractors  of America conducted tests to determine what benefit indoor plants might offer in terms of cleaning the air. The results turned out to be rather interesting and are only now really coming to people’s attention.

The study confirmed that certain indoor plants can provide an all natural way to clean air and remove toxic agents such as benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Estimates are that up to 89% of these harmful air particles can be removed by indoor plants. When I hear the mention of these chemical compounds I typically think of products such as gasoline and other petrochemicals but the reality is that these chemicals find their way into our homes rather easily.

Benzene can be found in household goods such as rubber products, lubricants, paints, glues, furniture wax and detergents but the use and exposure to tobacco products is the main way that we come in contact with this carcinogen. Trichloroethylene is used as a solvent, grease cleaner and up until fairly recently it was used in dry cleaning plants.  Humans come in contact with trichloroethylene mainly through contaminated ground water and the most common way this occurs is through taking a shower with contaminated water. It has been found that this chemical is released from hot water directly into the air during long, hot showers and in a home insulated to reduce the costs associated with heating and cooling, these vapors would recirculate throughout the building. Finally, as many of us may have found out in high school chemistry class formaldehyde is used as a preservative but it is also found in paint and it is used in insulation in both residential and commercial buildings.

So how exactly do indoor plants help clean the air? You may be aware that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the process of photosynthesis and as part of this process the plants absorb these chemicals as well. Not only did the NASA study confirm that indoor plants improve air quality but they gave an indication of how many plants are needed to have the maximum impact. The study indicated that in an 1800 square foot building you would need 15 to 18 indoor plants growing in pots that were six to eight inches in diameter. 

Certain plants are better at cleaning the air than others. It’s possible to find a comprehensive list of these through Wikipedia and some of the more well known houseplants include the following:

  • Spider Plant-They remove both benzene and formaldehyde
  • Peace Lily-Removes all of these chemicals and ammonia as well
  • Snake Plant-Removes all of these chemicals

Check our indoor gardening page for plants for your home http://www.bloomingsecrets.com/gardening/category/indoor-gardening

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