I like to think I have a green thumb, and I enjoy having several plants in my office. To me, the benefits of having greenery around your home or office can’t be overstated. In addition to the aesthetic bonus they bring, some indoor plants are also natural air purifiers.
Why should we care about air quality indoors, you may be wondering. While it’s true that air pollution outside, because of traffic and car-induced pollutants, is harmful, scientists are now turning their attention to the air we breathe inside. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside our homes may be two to five times more polluted than the air outside. Are you as stunned as I was when I read this statistic?
The reasons for indoor pollution are varied. And because we often can’t smell the pollution (in the same way we smell other types of pollution, like car exhaust), it often goes unnoticed. But according to the EPA, toxic gases released from common, everyday household items may pollute the air in our homes. Think of the cleaning agents we use, and the cement, paint, and particleboard found in our homes and offices. Today’s improved home insulation traps the gases released by these household items. In the office, there is also the issue of electromagnetic field radiation (EMFR) from computers.
Recent surveys indicate that we spend as much as 90% of our time indoors, meaning invisible indoor pollutants can really take a toll on our health. Side effects of dirty indoor air can include memory and cognitive issues, tiredness and fatigue, allergic reactions, respiratory problems and headaches. That’s enough to catch most people’s attention, and it caught the attention of the researchers at the EPA.
The EPA reports that we can relax and breathe deep – common household plants are actually fighting the good fight for us. Scientists have known for a long time that plants can draw pollution from air, leaving behind a purer, cleaner atmosphere. Plants are able to filter air in their leaves and via the microorganisms that inhabit their soil.
Researchers that have investigated the air filtering properties of plants have discovered that various types of plants are capable of eliminating different types of air pollutants. Some plants are even adept at filtering out the harmful EMFR from computers in offices.
Take a look at the list of plants below and see what pollutants they filter out. This may influence your decision of how to structure your mini indoor garden, or prompt you to spring for a new plant for your office.
Gerbera Daisy – While this beautiful flowering plant may be a little more high maintenance than others, it filters out airborne chemicals from inks and dry cleaning.
Spider Plant – Good news for those of us without green thumbs, this plant is resilient and low maintenance. This long-leafed beauty is also a workhorse, removing 80% of harmful gases from artificial rubbers, pesticides, paint, paint thinners and ink from the air.
Bromeliad – A broad-leafed plant with the ability to clear away toxic chemicals released from paraffin candles and car exhaust fumes, the Bromeliad can accomplish an 80 percent reduction in the fumes in just 12 hours.
Dracaena – This plant is especially adept at clearing away acetone (think nail polishes, nail polish removers and other household items).
Lucky Bamboo – With its reputation for being super hearty (and lucky), this plant clears away benzene and trichloroethylene and helps to restore moisture to the air, which is great for air-conditioned spaces.
Jade Plant – Also known as the friendship plant, jade is not only beautiful, but it can clear over 90 percent of toluene from the air.
Aloe Vera – While mostly known as an antidote to skin burns, aloe also clears away benzene and formaldehyde from indoor spaces.
Peace Lily – Relatively easy to grow indoors, peace lilies require very little attention and are effective at removing formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzenes and ammonia from the air.