In the late 80’s, NASA released a series of studies finding that indoor plants could purify the air. People responded by filling their homes with houseplants. Since most of us spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors, the idea of toxins in the air would naturally make us want to eliminate as much pollution as possible.
These early NASA studies were the foundation for further studies. We now know that in order to wage a plant war on toxins, you would need way more plants than researchers originally imagined. However, even a small number of plants might enhance indoor air quality, so why not take a chance on flowers and plants?
To take on toxins, NASA recommends two or three plants for every 100 feet. Studies show that air quality isn’t the only thing plants will improve. Plants can improve mood, productivity, concentration and memory, prevent coughing and congestion, reduce irritation to eyes, ears and throat and reduce stress.
You might be wondering what these toxins are and how they happen to be in your home. Furniture, synthetic building materials, carpet, cleaning products, rubber, glues, upholstery, paint, pesticides, bacteria, mold and even outdoor pollution can all sit in your home adversely affecting the air quality.
Lack of airflow indoors can lead to all these toxins building up, which can have a negative impact on your health. Toxins indoors can cause serious issues like asthma and sick building syndrome, which is a health concern that consists of people suffering symptoms of illness that is a result of where they live or work. The symptoms associated with sick building syndrome improve and sometimes completely resolve once the people are away from the building.
A World Health Organization Report in 1984 speculated that 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may receive complaints about poor indoor air quality.
The Flowers and Plants to Enhance
We have assembled some ideas for adding plants to enhance air quality, even if their abilities are more limited than originally suggested. Flowers and plants also beautify your surroundings, thereby positively influencing mood and ability to focus.
Without further ado, let us introduce a few plants to you!
Often given as gifts, NASA discovered that peace lilies were one of the top three plants for removing common household toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, ammonia and trichloroethylene. Low-maintenance and beautiful to behold, peace lilies are a very common houseplant.
These plants have dark green leaves and gorgeous white flowers. They can thrive in most lighting conditions but do require the soil to be kept moist. They will droop to give you a hint if they need more water. They may not bloom if they fail to get enough light.
They are toxic to pets and children. Peace lilies also put pollen and floral scents in the air, which may bother people who are sensitive to scents. However, for the right households, this plant makes a wonderful housewarming gift or expression of sympathy in times of loss.
English ivy thrives almost anywhere. It can be grown in a hanging basket, making it a great addition to décor. Water it generously during growth but refrain from overwatering in the winter. Different varieties have different light needs.
English ivy is particularly effective at combating mold and airborne fecal particles, which makes it naturally well-suited for bathrooms. It also can combat benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other harmful toxins.
It is important to note that English ivy is not safe for pets or children. The chemicals in its sap can also cause dermatitis in humans who have sensitive skin.
If you have a room with bright light, why not add a beautiful burst of color with Barberton daisies? Red, yellow, orange or pink are some of the color options for these cheerful flowers. Keep them moist but allow them to drain, so they don’t succumb to root rot.
These adorable flowers will brighten your space and improve air quality by cleansing toxins like formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. In other good news, they are listed by the ASPCA as non-toxic to dogs and cats.
For those who may have had bad luck with houseplants in the past, spider plants may be the plants you need. These plants grow quickly and can handle low light and forgetfulness. The best part of these easy-to-care-for plants is that they also produce little ones that you can repot. You can have a whole family of spider plants in no time!
These resilient plants will battle toxins like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and xylene. These wonderfully hardy plants are also non-toxic to dogs, cats and children, making them a good fit for any home.
Chrysanthemums or “mums” as they are also called, have beautiful blooms and are highly ranked for air purification. They are shown to eliminate ammonia, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and other common toxins. However, the plant only blooms for about six weeks, and some studies state that their ability to filter the air is greatly decreased when the plant’s flowers are not in bloom.
Despite this potential drawback, the plant has other amazing benefits. The plant’s dried blooms can be made into a mild-flavored tea. The chrysanthemum plant contains a natural insecticide called pyrethrin, and dried blooms can be made into a powder to get rid of pesky insect invaders.
These plants need a cool spot with less than ten hours of sunlight and damp soil that does drain. Despite their bright, friendly appearance, these plants are toxic to dogs, cats and children.
Things to Consider
Although these plants help eliminate toxins from the air, many of them are toxic if ingested. This makes them dangerous for children and pets. We did distinguish which plants were kid and pet-safe because we don’t want anyone’s pets or children to be placed in peril by plants. If in doubt, do your research before introducing a plant to a household with kids and pets.
Plants can also increase humidity in your home, which can lead to the growth of mold. Offset the increase in humidity by covering the top of the soil with aquarium gravel and let water drain into a tray, so the excess can be removed.
Other Ways to Remove Toxins
Plants are not the only way to tackle toxins. Keeping your floors clean, avoiding chemical cleaners or synthetic air fresheners, reducing humidity and increasing ventilation are all ways to improve the air quality in your home.
Keep your floors clean, but avoid using synthetic cleaners, chemical pesticides, air fresheners, self-cleaning ovens or Teflon cookware, as these all put toxic fumes in the air. In fact, fumes from self-cleaning ovens and Teflon have been known to kill pet birds. Like the canaries in coal mines, birds are more sensitive to fumes, but if the fumes can kill a bird, it probably isn’t good for you and your family to breathe either.
Increasing ventilation in your home and reducing humidity are some other good ways to improve the air quality in your home.
Using a good quality air filter is another way to try to combat indoor air pollution. Of course, if you want the best air possible, combine a quality air filter with some of the plants we suggested. For more information, reach out to our florists at Flowerama Appleton in Appleton, WI, to connect you with plant perfection for purifying the air in your lair.