Rebecca Jeffreys discovers the best plants for reducing indoor air pollution at home.
Some might say that a plant makes a house a home. Besides being a great addition to any corner of a room, it’s more sustainable than a bunch of flowers – providing you look after it correctly of course and don’t hang your head in shame every time you walk past it waving its brown leaves at you. More often than not, however, people buy house plants simply for aesthetic reasons, overlooking the many benefits that come with them.
The World Health Organisation estimated that 7 million people die from pollution every year. To put that into perspective – 8.136 million people were recorded as living in London in 2011. And although we think that the four walls of our home protect us from the pollution we are surrounded with outside; indoor air has actually been shown to hold harsh pollutants too. Luckily for us, however, research has indicated that certain house plants act as a natural filter to indoor pollution. In fact, NASA-conducted research into the power of plants indoors found that there are over 50 houseplant types that remove pollutants and gases.
The benefits don’t stop there; plants have also shown to lower stress levels at home and in the workplace and, if that’s not enough, also boast the additional health benefits below:
1. They help you sleep better
2. They help fight colds
3. They help you focus
4. They help improve your wellbeing
Below is a compiled list of the top 10 plants that can improve the air quality in your home:
1. Areca Palm
Areca palms filter out harsh chemicals including acetone, xylene and toluene, which accumulate from products such as nail varnish, detergents, wooden furniture, poor ventilation, gasoline, cosmetics etc.
The philodendron plant purifies air by removing formaldehyde, which tends to occur from building materials and home furnishings. Formaldehyde occurs naturally and becomes threatening only through long-term exposure by inhalation.
3. Rubber Plant
Rubber plants improve indoor air as their large surface leaves act as a sponge and absorb harsh chemicals then break them down. The plant has shown to absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into breathable oxygen.
4. Peace Lily
Peace lilies have shown to improve indoor air quality by up to 60%. The plant absorbs mold spores which commonly occur from dust inside. The plant reduces levels of mold spores through absorbing them as food. The plant can be useful in areas of high humidity – like bathrooms for example, as it will keep the mold at bay.
Dracaena plants have shown to be one of the most effective air filters. The plant removes formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and carbon dioxide – all of which are linked to health problems. Dracaena plants also tend to increase the humidity of a room which in turn helps to control respiratory distresses.
6. Snake Plant
The Snake Plant is extremely effective in its ability to absorb harsh chemicals like carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde and other harsh chemicals found in indoor air. The plant also produces oxygen, absorbs CO2 in the night and has proven to be beneficial for airborne allergies.
7. Boston Fern
Alongside being a natural air filter, the Boston Fern also restores natural moisture to the air. In fact, the plant has shown to be effective for people with dry skin or irritable noses or throats due to their moisturising properties.
8. Aloe Vera
The trusted Aloe Vera plant has been used for generations by people with sunburns or skin conditions. The gel inside Aloe Vera leaves are a natural anti-bacterial and are packed full of vitamins. Additionally, the plant acts as a natural air purifier and reduces toxic chemicals including formaldehyde and benzene – two chemicals that are present in cleaning products.
9. English Ivy
English Ivy can stimulate mucus glands and contains expectorant properties, which can help people with breathing difficulties. The leaves are actually used as medicine to reduce blockage and swelling of airway passages. The plant is also used medicinally to improve lung health, liver disorders, spleen disorders and others.
10. Spider plant
The Spider Plant is an antioxidant as it effectively removes ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene – harsh chemicals that occur from cleaning products and furniture. The plant is extremely easy to grow and quickly improves air quality. A studyfound that within just two days, the plant removed up to 90% of the toxins found in indoor air.
So, if you want to breathe a little easier; maybe try buying yourself some house plants, or if you already own some then you’re one step ahead. In fact, research shows that older plants are actually better at processing out pollutants and purifying the air – so look after your plants and in turn, they’ll look after you.