Leaf the Air Pollution Outside!

From Left to Right:Boston Fern, Dracenea "Janet Craig", and Pygmy Date Palm. Photos courtesy of guidetohouseplants.com.

by Barbara Summers

I became interested in the idea of plants that purify indoor air after a discussion with my brother, who lives in Beijing, China. Beijing is a city that is notorious for its air pollution. (The city actually shut down its factories for several months prior to the 2008 Olympics to improve the air condition for the sporting events.) My brother hardly ever opens his windows in his apartment, to avoid the dust and smog that would coat his furniture. To combat this lack of fresh air, he began researching plants that would improve the air quality of his apartment, and provide a safe haven for his lungs. I have expanded upon his initial research and compiled a list of the best plants to improve air quality and remove indoor air pollutants from your home and office.

The top ten plants for removing indoor air toxins are listed below:

1. Areca Palm

2. Lady Palm

3. Bamboo Palm

4. Rubber Plant

5. Dracaena “Janet Craig” 

6. Philodendron

7. Pygmy Date Palm

8. Ficus Alii

9. Boston Fern

10. Peace Lily

Indoor pollutants that affect health include formaldehyde (present in carpets, furniture, and foam insulation), Volatile Organic Compounds (including benzene found in varnishes, paints, and adhesives and trichloroethylene found in plastics, synthetic fibers, and detergents), airborne biological pollutants, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, pesticides and disinfectants, and radon. These pollutants contribute to ‘sick building syndrome’, which causes symptoms ranging from allergies, headaches and fatigue to nervous-system disorders and cancer.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s NASA scientists conducted a study to determine which plants were the best at removing indoor air pollutants and producing oxygen. NASA recommends 15-18 good sized plants in a 1,800 square foot home. The head scientist, B.C. Wolverton, later expanded upon the study and assigned plants a rating from one to 10, based on a plant’s ability to remove chemical vapors or indoor air toxins, ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to insect infestation, and the rate at which water evaporates from the leaves. His findings can be found in the book, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office.

Try a plant - or 15 - and breathe easier!

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