Indoor air quality is much more polluted than the outside air, and this is intensified when windows are kept shut as they are here in Florida in the summer.
Because homes are more insulated now than in the past, the off-gassing of toxic chemicals from synthetic materials in adhesives, cleaning products, paint, ceiling tiles, furniture, cabinetry, plywood, and rugs becomes concentrated indoors. Some of the most dangerous chemicals include volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) such as acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene; alcohols, and carbon monoxide. In addition, we track in outdoor pollutants, especially pesticides on our clothing and shoes.
The Environmental Protection Agency claims indoor air pollution is one of the top five public health threats and may be responsible for a rise in allergies and asthma in the last decade. Fortunately, simply growing houseplants can help ameliorate this toxicity.
While all plants increase the oxygen in the sir through photosynthesis, studies done by NASA scientist Bill Wolverton, Ph.D. have shown that some common houseplants in particular are good at detoxifying the air in a process called “metabolic breakdown”. Also, plants respire, bringing water vapor and oxygen into the plant roots, which then become available to bacteria and other microbes growing in the soil. These microorganisms also take toxins from the air.
The following are ten top detoxifying plants, based on their ability to clean the air, according to Dr. Wolverton’s research, their resistance to insects and pathogens, their ease of growing, and ability to thrive indoors.
- Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens), also known as Butterfly Palm, Golden Cane Palm, and Golden Feather Palm, is particularly good at removing formaldehyde and xylene. This plant does well in bright indirect light.
- Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii), also known as Reed Palm, is very easy to grow indoors and is effective at removing formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and trichloroethylene from the atmosphere.
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’) is a traditional houseplant which requires little care other than misting frequently. This is a good remover of formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, xylene and trichloroethylene from the atmosphere, particularly formaldehyde.
- Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’) and other Dracaena species, are easy to grow plants which can survive low light conditions. This is the one of the best known plants at removing formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, xylene and especially trichloroethylene from the home atmosphere.
- Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii), also known as Miniature Date Palm and Pygmy Date Palm, is good at removing formaldehyde and xylene from the atmosphere. This plant requires a little extra care, particularly with watering.
- English Ivy (Hedera helix), also known as Baltic Ivy is easy to grow and has a beautiful trailing habit that makes it perfect for hanging baskets. It is effective at removing benzene from the air.
- Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), pictured, also known as Devil’s Ivy, Money Plant, and Philodendron, is especially good at removing formaldehyde from the atmosphere. It has a trailing and climbing habit which makes it a particularly attractive houseplant.
- Lady Palm (Rhapsis species) is great at removing ammonia, benzene, chloroform, formaldehyde, toluene, trichloroethylene, and xylene from the air. It is also one of the easiest to grow indoors as it requires little light.
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum species) is great at removing a number of toxins from the air, including acetone, ammonia, benzene, ethyl alcohol, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, toluene, trichloroethylene, and xylene.This is a very common and traditional houseplant which produces beautiful white flowers.
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is particularly good at removing formaldehyde from the air. It is a traditional houseplant that is excellent for hanging baskets, and it’s easy to propagate the plantlets which grow from the plant into more individuals.
So surround yourself with easy to grow, beautiful plants indoors and breathe better air!
For more information, click here to learn how you can order Dr. Wolverton’s new book, co-authored with Kozaburo Takenaka, Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them.
Photo by Kathleen Sullivan.