Friday, October 18th, 2013...10:10 am

Plants for improving air quality

TheGardenLady received this question from Sarah.

At work, we just moved into a new building. I’ve gotten some headaches and felt nauseous. I wonder if “off gassing” is bothering me – if there are chemicals from new carpets, paints, etc, which are affecting me.  What are the best plants to clean the air?

In 1989 NASA did a study to see which plants were best in cleaning indoor air. They tested common houseplants bought in local nurseries in their area for the study, plants such as the Ficus plant or English Ivy. They kept the plants in the original pots they were in when they bought them and to keep the plants healthy they used Miracle-Gro fertilizer.

SUMMARY From the NASA research

“Low-light-requiring houseplants,along with activated carbon plant filters, have demonstrated the potential for improving indoor air quality by removing trace organic pollutants from the air in energy-efficient buildings.This plant system is one of the most promising means of alleviating the sick building syndrome associated with many new, energy- efficient buildings.The plant root-soil zone appears to be he most effective area for removing volatile organic chemicals.Therefore,maximizing air exposure to the plant root-soil area should beconsidered when placing plants in buildings for best air filtration. Activated carbon filters containing fans have the capacity for rapidly filtering large volumes of polluted air and should be considered an integral part of any plan using houseplants for solving indoor air pollution problems.”

Though this paper was written in 1989, most of the papers that have studied how plants remove chemicals from the air seem to be based on that article. And newer research seems to corroborate the NASA studies’ findings on the benefits of house plants to remove VOC’s or Volatile Organic Compounds from buildings (see here or here).

Mother Nature News lists 15 indoor plants and the particular chemicals they remove (see here).

See here for another post on this topic written by TheGardenLady.

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