Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Houseplants Can Save Your Life


Because we often spend up to 90% of our time indoors, we are susceptible to many health problems associated with poor indoor air quality. These problems can often be the result of poor ventilation, toxic mold, and chemicals. Therefore, in addition to being exposed to outdoor pollutants, pollutants can also be found in our homes and workplaces.

In an attempt to find solutions to indoor air pollution, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) participated in a two year study which suggested a common, but sophisticated pollution-absorbing device: the common houseplant.

Plants remove substances out of the air through their stoma, or the tiny openings in their leaves. As well, they breathe through their leaves, and allow their roots and soil bacteria to help remove trace levels of toxic vapors. Essentially, houseplants create a "living air cleaner" by combining activated carbon and a fan with the plant. The roots of the plant grow in the carbon, and they slowly degrade the chemicals that are absorbed. Dr. Bill Wolverton, former senior research scientist at NASA, stated the following: "We feel that future results will provide an even stronger argument that common indoor landscaping plants can be a very effective part of a system used to provide pollution free homes and work places."

In order to conduct the study, each plant type was placed in sealed, Plexiglas chambers in which chemicals were injected. Philodendron, spider plants, and gold pothos were the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. For removing benzene, flowering plants such as gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums were extremely efficient. Other good performers were the Dracaena Massangeana and Spathiphyllum. In conclusion, the study consistently showed that living, green, and flowering plants were able to remove several types of toxic chemicals from the air in building interiors.

Fortunately, because houseplants are plentiful, inexpensive, and relatively easy to maintain, they make great, "natural air purifiers." As Dr. Wolverton noted, "Combining nature with technology can increase the effectiveness of plants in removing air pollutants."

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