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Clean Your Indoor Air with Houseplants

1/25/2010 12:00:00 AM

Tags: houseplants, indoor air quality, indoor plants

Do they or don’t they? Only the scientists know for sure whether houseplants can remove toxins from indoor air—and the research is inconsistent.

english ivy
English Ivy is one of the top five plants for removing VOCs from the air. Photo By Mirona Iliescu/Courtesy Flickr. 

Decades ago, NASA published a study claiming that common house plants could remove toxins from indoor air. Those studies were later disproven, but references to plants’ air-scrubbing potential have been rife ever since. At Natural Home, we’ve held off on reporting any of this until the science could prove it.

Now, a study from the University of Georgia Department of Horticulture shows that some indoor house plants can remove volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, from the air. VOCs have been linked to cancer and a variety of health problems that the World Health Organization says kill more than 1.6 million people each year.

Researchers tested 28 common indoor plants for their ability to remove five VOCs: benzene, TCE, toluene, octane and alpha-pinene. The VOCs studied in this case come from a variety of sources, including cleaning products, paints, adhesives, building materials, insecticides, plastics and even tap water. Benzene has been labeled as a known carcinogen, and TCE is considered a possible carcinogen.

The purple waffle plant, English ivy, the variegated wax plant, the Asparagus fern and the purple heart plant removed the most VOCs. The study concluded that common house plants have the potential to significantly improve indoor air quality, so why not bring in a few? Living with plants is a sure-fire way to boost your mood, freshen up your décor—and possibly improve your health.

What houseplants do you have?

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