Unfortunately, many conventional homes, office spaces, and all sorts of everyday indoor environments are making us sick, resulting in asthma, allergies, and other illnesses, all due to poor indoor air quality. Synthetic building materials, carpeting, paints, cleaning products, mattresses — dozens of seemingly innocuous substances and objects can emit formaldehyde, trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, and a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) over their lifespans. That spells nastiness for your home living environment, especially the very air you breathe.
Believe it or not, however, a simple houseplant can make the difference between a toxic indoor space and a happy, healthy one.
How to improve indoor air quality
The first step to preventing poor indoor air quality is to seek out natural alternatives to everyday products (choose low or no VOC paint, for example), but in cases where you simply can’t revamp your indoor space (say, for instance, your work office), a simple houseplant will do the trick. It’s true: many houseplants have the ability to detoxify polluted indoor spaces.
In 1984, NASA senior research scientist Dr. Bill Wolverton tested houseplants for their ability to maintain clean air for future habitable lunar bases. Testing in sealed chambers, Wolverton found that philodendrons and golden pothos were excellent formaldehyde controllers; gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were impressive benzene purgers; pot mums and peace lilies were highly rated for TCE removal. His initial findings suggested that one to three mature plants were enough to improve the air in a 100-cubic-foot area. He also found that it wasn’t just plants doing the clean-up work, but the microbes that were specific to the plants’ roots. Another 1989 NASA study concluded that tested houseplants removed up to 87 percent of toxic indoor air within 24 hours. [Source]
Indeed, it is not so much the houseplant that is doing the work of cleaning the air, but the beneficial microbes found in the soil of the potted plants that are responsible for filtering the air, so long as the plant itself is healthy. And thankfully, it doesn’t take a jungle’s worth of plants to make the difference: