Due to improved construction methods, buildings are better sealed to maximize energy efficiency. Yet, these "sealed" buildings often trap gases from synthetic materials that can pollute the indoor air. These air pollutants can cause problems for inhabitants especially during the winter when people are forced to spend a great deal of time indoors.
Houseplants are currently receiving a lot of attention as options for improving indoor air quality. Several years ago scientists from NASA discovered that plants could remove volatile organic chemicals (VOC) from the air inside sealed test chambers. While most of our homes are not sealed like the "biohome" that NASA created, everyone can benefit from the removal of VOCs by plants. Dr. Wolverton, author of How to Grow Fresh Air, states, " Houseplants are no longer luxuries, but essential to health."
The gases most often studied include formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toluene, ammonia, acetone, methyl alcohol, ethyl acetate, and trichloroethylene. The amount of purification depends on the plant being tested. Different houseplants purify different toxic chemicals to differing degrees.
Below is a list of plants proven to improve indoor air quality by removing harmful chemicals (the order of listing is random).
- Palms (Chrysalidocarpus, Rhapis, Chamaedorea, and Phoenix)
- Fern (Nephrolepis)
- Corn Plant and Dragon Tree (Dracaena)
- Rubber Plant and Weeping Fig (Ficus)
- English Ivy (Hedera)
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Florist Mum (Chrysanthemum)
- Gerber Daisy (Gerbera)
- Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
- Schefflera (Brassaia)
- Orchids (Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis)
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum)
- Philodendron (Philodendron)
- Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium)
- Pothos (Epipremnum)
- Dwarf Banana (Musa)
- Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
Not only are these houseplants a beautiful addition to the interior landscape, but they can also be beneficial.
Updated from an article that originally appeared in the April 13, 2001 issue, p. 36 of Horticulture and Home Pest Newsletter.