While building design and construction constantly evolve and advance, the progress is sometimes not all good. Among the top five environmental risks is indoor air pollution. Energy-efficient buildings usually have less air circulation in individual rooms. And so, overall, indoor air quality is poorer and pollution is often higher than outdoors.The reduced air flow in closed rooms with poor ventilation cause pollutants to build up and result in asthma, ‘sick building syndrome’ or other health concerns. They manifest themselves with negative health effects e.g. headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye, ear, nose irrigation, or a tickly cough. These pollutants and toxic compounds also called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) come from building materials, furniture, carpets, computers, products used in the rooms, etc.
VOCs and their sources are:
Xylene: glue, paints, nail polish
Benzene: glues, paints, furniture wax, detergents
Formaldehyde: emissions, disinfectants, fixatives, preservatives in consumer products
Toluene: household and consumer products
Ammonia: aerosols, sprays
Trichloroethylene: homes undergoing renovation
As people spend about 80-90% of their time indoors, breathing better air is a definite plus for overall health. There are several options to achieve this: one is to improve air quality and to fight indoor air pollution through ‘houseplants’; another solution is air purifiers.Based on studies, NASA believes since 1989 that optimizing indoor air through houseplants that reduce the number of toxic air particulates, that take in carbon dioxide, and that turn it all into oxygen through photosynthesis, is an easy fix. Nasa also found that microorganisms in the potting soil contribute to the air cleaning effect.The plants are powerful filters that eliminate about 87% of harmful VOCs and improve air quality, are also stunning decorative design elements in the living space. They enhance the indoor environment on different fronts at the same time. No wonder – this makes one feel better!
It has also been researched that patients who have a plant in their room were more positive, have lower blood pressure and stress levels. So, plants at home and in the office contribute to less mental fatigue, increase good mood, help intensify productivity, concentration, and memory.And here is more good news.
Many plants are easy to care for – to the point that some are almost indestructible.
There is greenery for almost everyone:
- Garden Mums (Chrysanthemums – Chrysanthemums Morifollium) are (while blooming) at the top of the list of air purifiers. They remove ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene.
- Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is easy to take care of and gives back by getting rid of formaldehyde and xylene from the air.
- Dracaena or ‘Song of India’ with its long, wide green, lime, and yellow leaves come in many different kinds and forms. All of them eliminate benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene, and xylene.
- Ficus or weeping fig that is originally from Southeast Asia grows to 10 feet tall and is low maintenance. It rids the air of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
- Peace Lily is pretty to look at, relatively small, and a top toxin remover for acetone, ammonia, benzene, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, trichloroethylene, and xylene but at the same time it is toxic for pets and small children.
- Boston fern loves to grow in moist environments. It eats up formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene.
- Snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue is almost ‘unkillable’. In return, it absorbs benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
- Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) loves the sun and bright lights. It grows to be tall (up to 12 feet) and is pet-friendly. The plant eliminates carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and chloroform.
- Aloe Vera is inside out healthy for you. The clear liquid itself is full of vitamins, amino acids and more. It removes formaldehyde.
- Areca Palms (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) from Madagascar needs a bit of space and plenty of water to do its work on taking on benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
- Chinese evergreen (Algaonema) has originally grown in tropical Asian forests but is now a favorite houseplant where it eradicates – outdoors and indoors – benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
- Orchids synthesize xylene and produce oxygen even during the night. They are, hence, bedroom-friendly.
While plants might be less effective in cleaning the air than air purifiers, they are natural, cost-effective, and therapeutic. On top of that, they produce fresh air and thrive when we exhale (carbon dioxide) – something machines don’t do.
NASA continues to recommend ‘houseplants’ over ‘air purifiers’ for space travelers and earth dwellers.According to their study, a variety of two to three plants for every 100 square feet of living space will effectively remove almost all pollutant sources. The plants also serve as an interesting design element in any interior space.Other tricks to fight indoor air pollution are: to frequently clean floors, vacuum, and mop, not to use any synthetic cleaners or air fresheners, to actively reduce humidity, and to increase ventilation in rooms.