Sending astronauts into space isn’t the only scientific advancement for which we have NASA to thank. The brilliant minds at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration also think a lot about the environment. Like us, they want the air we breathe – and float through – to be clean and pure. They researched ways to purify the air in space facilities, and found that houseplants were one of the best air cleaners around.
Specifically, houseplants rid the air of a group of common airborne chemicals that build up indoors. These chemicals are known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Some VOCs occur naturally, emitted from plants themselves. If you walk through a forest, you’ll breathe in a ton of isoprenes, terpenes, and other VOCs, all of which are harmless.
But another class of VOCs can harm human health, especially in large doses, accumulated over time. These VOCs float off man-made products that surround us at home and at work. Formaldehyde and benzene are the most common, but there are dozens of others. They “gas-off” paints, varnishes, dry-cleaned clothes, cigarette smoke, plastics, carpeting, cleaners, glue, personal care and beauty products, wall coverings, upholstery, foam insulation, photocopiers and other office machines. If that chemical assault isn’t enough to make you want to hold your breath inside, consider that ozone, from air pollution, accumulates indoors too. Air laden with these chemicals has been linked to respiratory illness and disease.
Just like Master Clean crews are heroes at cleaning your home and office, houseplants are heroes at cleaning your air. Here’s why: Plants grow and thrive by absorbing gas (carbon dioxide) and sunshine into their leaves, and converting this to energy (a process called photosynthesis.) Plants can absorb all different kinds of gasses, not just carbon dioxide. So, simply by doing it’s regular plant thing, a houseplant filters chemicals out of the air.
Many of the most common houseplants, widely available at home stores, are the best air scrubbers. Here are the top five houseplants that clean indoor air exceptionally well:
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) – NASA’s researchers named this the top plant for absorbing the most common indoor VOCs.
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) – Not only are spider plants hearty, they reproduce shoots that can be planted in a new pot and easily propagated.
Golden Pothos (Scindapsus aures) – This extremely popular houseplant features spade-shaped leaves on a climbing vine, which makes any room look tropical.
Heart-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium) – This hard-working air cleaner looks similar to the golden pothos, with heart-shaped leaves clinging to its vine stem.
Weeping fig (Ficus) – While figs are typically sold as small trees, they can grow large and old indoors, their trunks thickening and foliage forming a classic umbrella shape.
Think about all the resources you put into keeping your home and workplace clean – time, money, energy. Adding some houseplants to your environment can keep the air clean too, and protect your health in the process.
Source: NASA, “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement.”
Photo by hyena reality