Monday, April 13, 2009

Improve Indoor Air Quality with Houseplants

This one is for Angel.

A lot of "being green" is really expensive. This is one of those tips for making due with what you have. Most of the materials we traditionally use to build our homes are toxic to humans. Paint, carpet, many hardwood floors, furniture, cabinets, etc. These products use chemicals to look nice and to stay looking nice. From day one they emit these chemicals into the air. You breathe them, your children breathe them, your pets breath them. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens. They can lead to respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. For more information on indoor air pollution and its effects on our bodies check out this EPA resource:

While the EPA has yet to recognize the benefits of houseplants in reducing indoor air pollutants, NASA has. 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. See more about that here:

But hey, even if you don't think they'll help you breathe, they are bound to make you feel more at ease in your home and they are often excellent design elements. Read more about the benefits of houseplants:
Below are the top ten plants that combat indoor air pollutants, their benefits, and the pollutants they find tasty. Most of these are easy to care for, regardless of whether or not you tend to kill things. Happy indoor gardening!

Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus Lutescens)
Removes: All tested indoor air toxins
Benefits: Beautiful, very popular and easy to care plant that works well with any decor. Easy to grow and maintain, its leaves have a gentle, gracious flow that will soften and revive any environment, be it home or office.

Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa)
Removes: most pollutants.
Benefits: One of the best plants to improve the indoor air quality. Very popular and easy to care for.

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Seifrizii)
Removes: benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde.
Benefits: The Bamboo palm adds a very peaceful, tropical feeling to any environment. Is most resistant to insect infestation.

Rubber Plant (Ficus Robusta)
Removes: most pollutants, especially formaldehyde.
Benefits: A favorite plant of the Victorians. Will survive in dim light and tolerate cool temperatures. Excellent ability to remove toxins from any indoor environment.

Dracaena "Janet Craig" (Dracaena Deremensis "Janet Craig")
Removes: most pollutants, especially trichloroethylene.
Benefits: Very attractive plant, easy to grow in very little light. Strong plant that can tolerate a bit more neglect (i.e. if you forget to water them regularly). Among many varieties of dracaenas, the "Janet Craig" is the best one for removing chemical toxins from your environment.

English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
Removes: most pollutants, especially formaldehyde.
Benefits: Another hardy, very popular plant, often used in public spaces. Very easy to grow and very adaptable, except for high temperatures.

Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix Roebelenii)
Removes: most pollutants, especially xylene.
Benefits: A slow grower that can reach a height of about 5 to 6 feet. Can tolerate low levels of light, but needs a lot of "breathing room." If happy in any given environment, can thrive for many years.

Ficus Alii (Ficus Macleilandii "Alii")
Removes: most pollutants, especially formaldehyde.
Benefits: Easier to care for than the Ficus Benjamina, but still can loose some leaves while adjusting to a new environment. There are three types of Ficus alii: the standard tree, the bush and the braids (several entwined trunks). Beautiful large plant that can be used for a myriad of decor purposes.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata "Bostoniensis")
Removes:most pollutants, especially formaldehyde.
Benefits: Very popular and probably one of the oldest groups of plants. Beautiful and lush, it is a favorite for any indoor environment, but it does require attention in order to thrive.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)
Removes: alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene, formaldehyde.
Benefits: Lush, strong, beautiful plant with gentle white flowers and peaceful energy. Easy to care for and a treat for the eye, introduce it to your home and it will be a keeper!

1 comment:

  1. As usual, I'm pretty skeptical of these kinds of claims, but I think houseplants are good to have for many reasons- so why not? And maybe it will help some- just don't count on it and air out the house on a nice day. Also remember that many of these plants do require high indoor light levels to keep them in good condition over time.