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Plants that Clean the Air


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Our space program has led the way to a fascinating and important discovery about the role of houseplants indoors. NASA has been researching methods of cleansing the atmosphere in future space stations to keep them fit for human habitation over extended periods of time. They've found that many common houseplants and blooming potted plants help fight pollution indoors. They're reportedly able to scrub significant amounts of harmful gases out of the air, through the everyday processes of photosynthesis. Some pollutants are also absorbed and rendered harmless in the soil.
Plant physiologists already knew that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process. Now researchers have found many common houseplants absorb benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, as well.
Chances are, all houseplants are beneficial in this regard, at least to a certain degree, though they haven't all been tested. Of those tested, not all have proven equally efficient cleaners. Nor can we assume all harmful pollutants can be removed in this manner.

Some houseplants are better at removing formaldehyde from the air, while others do a better job on benzene; none is much help when it comes to tobacco smoke. But there are enough known plants that do a good job of removing pollutants from the air we breathe to cause us to view houseplants as more than just an attractive feature in decorating the interior environment.
These are three of the worst offenders found in relatively new homes and offices. Newer buildings are constructed largely with man-made building materials and furnished with synthetic carpeting, fabrics, laminated counters, plastic coated wallpaper, and other materials known to "off-gas" pollutants into the interior environment.
The advent of the "energy crisis" a number of years back has increased the problems associated with indoor pollutants. Newly constructed buildings are better insulated and sealed tightly to conserve heat or air-conditioning. While it does save both money and energy, this new found efficiency has its downside in that pollutants may be trapped indoors and have less opportunity to dissipate to the outside. The phrase coined to describe this unfortunate result is "sick building syndrome."
If your home is old enough to be leaky and drafty, you may not need to worry about "sick-building syndrome." But if you live in a newer, energy-efficient home with windows and doors tightly sealed, or you work in a building where the air feels stale and circulation seems poor, the liberal use of houseplants seems like an easy way to help make a dent in the problem.
NASA scientists studied nineteen different plant species for two years. Of the specimens studied, only two were primarily flowering plants; chrysanthemums and gerbera daisies. Though commonly used to bring a touch of color indoors, particularly for holidays and special occasions, these plants are generally not kept indoors very long. After they're through blooming they're usually discarded or planted outdoors.

Most of the plants tested are "true" houseplants, kept indoors year-round in our climate, though they may be placed outdoors during warm summer months. One is the common succulent, Aloe vera (now renamed Aloe barbadensis), also known as "medicine plant." Many people already have one in a bright kitchen window because of the soothing, healing properties its viscous inner tissue has on burns, bites and skin irritations.
Most of the plants listed below evolved in tropical or sub-tropical forests, where they received light filtered through the branches of taller trees. Because of this, their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize efficiently under relatively low light conditions, which in turn allows them to process gasses in the air efficiently.
Soil and roots were also found to play an important role in removing air-borne pollutants. Micro-organisms in the soil become more adept at using trace amounts of these materials as a food source, as they were exposed to them for longer periods of time. Their effectiveness is increased if lower leaves that cover the soil surface are removed, so there is as much soil contact with the air as possible.
Best results were obtained with small fans that pulled air through a charcoal filter in the soil, cleaning more than foliage could alone or in combination with a "passive" pot of soil. Even without the fan and filter, however, houseplants did remove trace pollutants from the air.
The NASA studies generated the recommendation that you use 15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house. The more vigorously they grow, the better job they'll do for you.
By Deborah L. Brown, Extension Horticulturist
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) – removes chemical vapors, removes formaldihyde

Arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum) – removes chemical vapors

Azalea (Rhododendron simsii hybrids) – removes chemical vapors

Bamboo or Reed Palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii) - removes chemical vapors

Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’) – the best fern for removing air pollutants

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) – removes chemical vapors; Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera ‘Bridgesii’) – removes chemical vapors; Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) – removes chemical vapors

Dumbcane (Diffenbachia sp.) - removes chemical vapors

Dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’) – best of the dracaenas for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment;

Dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’) – especially effective for the removal of benzene

Dracaena (Dracaena marginata) – among the best plants for removing xylene; Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’) – especially effective at removing air toxins such as formaldehyde;

English ivy (Hedera helix) – particularly effective at removing formaldehyde Florist’s mum (Chrysanthemum x morifolium) – one of the best flowering or seasonal plants for removing formaldehyde, benzene, and ammonia from the atmosphere

Gerbera Daisy ( Gerbera jamesonii) - removes chemical vapors

Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) – removes chemical vapors such as Carbon monoxide, benzewne, and fornaldihyde

Mauna Loa (Spathiphyllum sp) - removes chemical vapors

Miniature date palm (Phoenix roebelinii) – one of the best palms for removing indoor air pollutants, especially effective for the removal of xylene

Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria laurentii) - removes chemical vapors, it is effective for absorbing carcinogenic substances and formaldehyde

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) – excels in the removal of alcohol, acetone, benzene, and formaldehyde

Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens ‘oxycardium’) – removes chemical vapors

Selloum Philodendron (Philodendron selloum) – removes chemical vapors

Elephant Ear Philodendron (Philodendron domesticum) – removes formaldehyde

Red emerald philodendron (Philodendron erubescens) – one of the best philodendrons for removing indoor air pollutants

Rubber plant (Ficus robusta) Especially effective at removing formaldehyde, It absorbs poisonous gases coming from carpets or wallpaper

Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) – good for removing chemical vapors such as carbon monoxide, it is effective for absorbing carcinogenic substances and formaldehyde

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vittatum’) – effective for removing indoor air pollutants as well as chemical vapors

Wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens) – good for removing chemical vapors.

Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) – Removes formaldehyde, absorbs incompletely combusted sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide
These are some of the plants known to contribute to healthy air quality in our homes, buildings, and offices. Some plants may be better than others are but all plants clean the air as they beautify our surroundings and add oxygen and humidity to the indoor environment. Horticulturist Ken Beattie suggests, “The next plant you buy may save your life.”

To read an account of the NASA Study House Plants Clean Air go to

zone10.com nasa-study-house-plants-clean-air.html


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Comment: Plants that Clean the Air

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Skive October 27, 2010
Good day!This was a really magnificentsuper Topics!

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Banepa October 21, 2010


Helpful post, bookmarked your website for hopes to read more information!

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Thunder
Thunder
June 04, 2010
Your Welcome! :o))

heidbenati
heidbenati
June 04, 2010
Cool information that I plan to apply in my house :-) Thank you.

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