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Houseplants: Fresh Air From a Pot!

Spider Plant
Photo by madaise via Flickr

During the winter months, when it is really cold outside, most of us don’t want to open our windows to get some fresh air.  Doing that would make us cold and uncomfortable.  Instead, we invest our money in storm windows, weather stripping and sealers to make sure that no heat escapes and no cold air enters our house.

Having the house sealed up tight all winter long not only keeps us warm, it also lets all the indoor air pollutants build up in the house. That is why we see a decline in our indoor air quality during the winter.  For short periods of time, that’s not really a problem.  But, long term exposure to poor indoor air quality can result in headaches, fatigue, irritability and drowsiness.  However, the good news is that there are some things you can do to reduce your indoor air pollution without opening your windows in the middle of a blizzard.  The first important step is knowing your enemies.

What are some indoor air pollutants
There are many indoor air pollutants that can cause poor indoor air quality and affect our health, such as:

  1. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides: These are produced by gas stoves and furnaces.  It’s actually healthier to use electric stoves and furnaces since they don’t produce these pollutants.
  2. Formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene: These are usually outgassed from treated furniture, paint, tile floors, carpet, clothing and cleaning supplies.  While outgassing can continue for long periods of time, it is much more intense in new products.  So, while a new carpet might look nicer, the older one is healthier.  So remodel when necessary, not every time you decide a new color would be nice to spice up the place.  And when you do, look for low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints and carpets, especially if you have small children or are expecting.
  3. Smoke: This from cooking, fireplaces and smoking.  It goes without saying to try to minimize the amount of smoke in the house.
  4. Pollen, pet dander, mold spores and dust mites: These items contribute to poor indoor air quality, and can be especially hard to deal with for individuals with allergies.  These are naturally occurring items which can be minimized by routine house cleanings.

Now that you’ve minimized the amount of air pollutants that you’re putting into the air, it’s time to remove some of the contaminants that are still there.

Use houseplants to remove pollutants
Some houseplants do a great job of removing and absorbing formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from the air.  As for the other pollutants, they don’t seem to be as effective.  Here are a few plants you should consider getting to help cleanse the air in your house or workplace.

  1. Gerbera Daisy: Extremely effective at removing benzene and trichloroethylene
  2. Spider plants (Don’t worry, they just look like spiders.): Good at removing formaldehyde
  3. English Ivy: Effective at removing benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene
  4. Bamboo Palm: Effective at removing benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene
  5. Elephant Ear Philodendron: Removes formaldehyde
  6. Golden Pothos: Effective at removing formaldehyde

Poor indoor air quality can adversely affect our health.  Luckily, houseplants are a wonderful, decorative and relatively inexpensive way to get rid of some of the chemicals in the air.  But, they won’t get rid of everything.  So, to truly have better indoor air quality, make sure to open your windows once in awhile for an hour or more to help get rid of more pollutants.  Just don’t forget the windows are open in case it starts raining or snowing…

If you would like to find out about some other plants, you can take a look at the NASA research paper on plants & indoor air quality.

Comments (8)

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  1. Great post, Talli! I love my houseplants-especially my spiders- gerbera daisy’s are fun too!! Also, Peace Lilly is another great chemical remover and beautiful too!

  2. James Thomas says:

    thanks Talli… I never thought that my trays wheatgrass and sunflower sprouts that I am growing inside house had a dual purpose… Guess I’ll have to plant some Gerbera Daisies in my Computer’s CD Drive Tray. 🙂

  3. Steph says:

    This is a great post, Talli! (Now I need to figure out how to keep a plant alive!) 😉

  4. […] Read the rest of the post here…>> Share and Enjoy: […]

  5. HR says:

    Thanks Talli, I will have your recommendations in mind the next time i visit the nursery.

  6. […] (P.S. for usefulness:  One of the things that definitely improves air, whether you agree it’s by energy or not, is plants.  A list of the ones that are great for air-purification can be found here.) […]

  7. […] First Tweet Jan 13, 2009 suslane Susannah Influential is going to buy a bamboo palm because of @tallivansunder 's post: http://www.beinghealthy.tv/archives/houseplants/ view retweet […]

  8. lose weight says:

    Thank you. Great submissions you have here. Have some extra links to link to with more stuff like this?

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