Preparing to be cooped up for the winter? Adding some houseplants can help combat illnesses caused by indoor air pollution in your home.
Winter is almost here, and many of us will be spending a lot more time indoors over the next few months. You probably don’t think of air pollution as something that should concern you when you’re cozy and snug in your own house, but would it surprise you to learn that the air in your home is often more polluted than the air outdoors?
In fact, indoor air pollution can be caused by numerous different substances – from cleaning and personal care products filled which chemicals, to off-gassing from furniture and mattresses, to the chemicals emitted by electronics. And since your home is often closed up, especially during the cold months of winter, these chemicals can accumulate in the air inside your home, sometimes causing ill health effects such as headaches, fatigue, allergies, and respiratory illnesses. In fact, some more serious illnesses have also been linked to air pollution, including emphysema, lung cancer, decreased cognitive function, and cardiovascular diseases.
Fortunately, there’s a cheap and effective way to clean up your indoor air – without purchasing any expensive air purifiers or filters. And it even decorates and adds life to your home! I’m talking, of course, about the humble houseplant.
Just as they do outdoors, indoor plants can help remove pollution from the air by absorbing the toxins through their leaves and roots. Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), University of Georgia and Pennsylvania State University have demonstrated that potted plants in your home can improve your air quality, and other studies have shown improvements in mood, memory, and overall health and productivity when plants are introduced into a living or work space.
While just about any leafy plant can help, these 12 were found to be especially beneficial at reducing indoor air pollution:
Particularly good at absorbing toluene emitted from gasoline, paint, kerosene and lacquers. These plants flourish in medium light, single pot and room temperature. Allow the soil to dry between watering; brown leaves indicate they need more water.
These plants can absorb up to 90 percent of formaldehyde and carbon monoxide from tobacco smoke and O-xylene from fuels and P-xylene found in plastics. (This plant is also called the airplane plant.) It is resilient and survives well even if you don’t have a green thumb. The plant is safe for your pets and easy to grow.
In the family of Bromeliads, as is the pineapple, this plant easily purifies the air of 90 percent of benzenes emitted from glues, furniture wax, detergent and paint. These plants are easy to grow indoors and have very few problems with pests. They withstand drought well, but never overwater them.
Caribbean Tree Cactus
These lovely cactus plants can absorb up to 80 percent of the ethylbenzene in the space they are kept. This chemical is emitted from electronic products, construction material, garden care products, toys and furniture.
Most cactus plants will do well in pots with the right amount of food, light and water. Although they withstand the drought well, they do require more water indoors than they do in the ground.
These beautiful variegated leaf plants absorb 90 percent of the acetone from household cleaners and nail polish remover.
These leafy plants require a lot of water and provide humidity for your home.
These plants come in either a solid color or variegated leaf variety. They bloom in the spring and don’t require much light. Keep them close at hand in your office as they absorb electromagnetic radiation from your digital devices and humidify the air.
Easy to grow and care for, they are excellent at absorbing the toxins from cigarette smoke and cleansing the air for people suffering from asthma.
Slightly more difficult to care for, the Ficus cleanses odors from the air and reduces toxic substances from your home and office. There are several varieties of the plant.
Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
This plant is easy to care for and grows well. It removes benzene and formaldehyde and increases the oxygen supply in the room at night.
These are favorite plants as they are easily grown and look great in hanging pots. They efficiently detoxify formaldehyde but are toxic to cats and dogs.
Also known as the Reed Palm, this plant thrives indoors and readily absorbs formaldehyde outgassing from furniture. If you’ve purchased a new chair or couch you may want to decorate with a couple of these plants.