According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, NASA experiments in air purification in space are showing that certain types of common houseplants do a terrific job getting rid of indoor pollutants that can cause a range of health problems.
There is a growing body of evidence that plants can reduce dust particles and contaminants such as formaldehyde and benzene that come from cigarette smoke, paint and paint thinner, furniture, building materials and other noxious sources.
There has been mounting concern about the quality of indoor air. We spend more than 90 percent of our time inside, where levels of pollution can be two to five times higher than outside, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Indoor air pollutants come primarily in two forms: particle pollution, which includes dust, pollen, animal dander, smoke and gaseous pollutants such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that come from building materials, dry-cleaned clothing and aerosol sprays.
While there is still not enough hard evidence to make it an official mainstream policy, there is a big body of research that validates the efficacy of potted plants as air purifiers. One study suggests that six or more plants in a 1,200- to 1,500-square foot house could notably reduce contaminants. Some plants are especially helpful and target specific pollutants as indicated in this list.
English Ivy (Hedera helix) for benzene, toluene, octane, alpha-pinene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.
Mother-In-Law's Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) for alcohol, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene.
Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) for formaldehyde, ammonia, n-hexane, and benzene.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)for acetone, ammonia, benzene, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, trichloroethylene, xylene, n-hexane and toluene.
Devil's Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) for carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene.
Flamingo Flower (Anthurium) for ammonia, formaldehyde, toluene, xylene and benzene.
Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis) for trichloroethylene, formaldehyde and benzene.
Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus) for benzene, toluene, octane, alpha-pinene and trichloroethylene.
Big box retailers such as Lowe's and Home Depot are now selling plants with tags promoting their air-cleaning abilities. Going green was never so easy.