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Houseplants as Air Cleansers

By: Helena Stratford - Updated: 10 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Houseplants Plants Air Cleansers

A third of all office spaces in Europe have inadequate indoor air, so much that in many cases it’s more polluted than that of the street outside and the same is happening within our homes. As we live in temperature-controlled, hermetically sealed atmospheres with all kinds of 20th century gadgets, the very air we breathe is becoming increasingly toxic.

Enter the humble houseplant...

Spider Plants And Basement Bedsits

We may all remember from early biology lessons that plants are good for houses because they take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. There are even some plants, such as the orchid, which give off oxygen at night.

So plants offer a perfect symbiotic relationship with us, and just the simple procedure of having plants in the home helps to offset our personal carbon footprint, cleanse the air and so helps the environment.

Polluted Atmospheres

However, carbon dioxide is not all we have to worry about. Although we may not be aware of it, indoor air can be extremely polluted with all sorts of other chemicals.

Hundreds of working days are lost each year down to employees feeling sick in the workplace. Often the symptoms are vague but include headaches, dizziness, watery or itchy eyes, confusion, and fatigue.

Nevertheless researchers have shown that this ‘sick building syndrome’ can be combated not only by using good environmental architectural approaches but by employing the use of houseplants to help purify the air.

One Norwegian hospital was able to reduce the absence rate of workers by 66% as a direct result of placing plants in the workplace.

Healthy Homes

The same methods can be used to help our homes.

If, when you sit down in the evening, your eyes start itching, it may well be due to chemical ‘off-gassing’ from your sofa, T.V., or carpet. By putting some good toxic-filtering houseplants in the living room, you can do much to reduce these kinds of symptoms and help keep yourself healthy.

In fact researchers have shown that symptoms such as coughs, headaches, tiredness, and weepy or itchy eyes can be reduced by as much as 30%.

We may also remember that most dingy bedsits seemed to have a spider plant struggling to survive somewhere – but we may not know that the common spider plant is particularly effective at ‘cleaning’ the air of other nasties, having the capacity to absorb and break down pollutants such as formaldehyde – a toxic substance used in the manufacture of products such as flat-pack furniture, office chairs and carpets.

Pop one in your office or on your desk and it will also help to neutralise the toxins produced by computers and other office equipment as well as cheering up your day.

Air Cleansers And Moisturisers

We have already mentioned formaldehyde, but other damaging substances commonly found in indoor air include ozone, solvents, glues, resins, toluene, and benzene. Plants can help to cleanse all these from the air.

Plants have other climate-enhancing properties as well. They release moisture into the atmosphere, so humidifying over-heated, dry conditions, absorb heat and noise, and remove dust and pollutants.

It has also been proven that the presence of plants reduces stress, increases a sense of well-being and that employees become more productive when plants are in the workplace environment.

Top Air Cleansing Houseplants

The following plants have all been shown to be consistently good at removing toxins from the atmosphere, are easy to grow and maintain and do well in semi-shaded conditions.

  • Palms (particularly Areca, Lady, Bamboo and Dwarf Date palms)
  • Dragon Tree (Dracaena)
  • Sansevieria (old woman’s or mother-in-law’s tongue)
  • Goosefoot plant (Syngonium podophyllum)
  • Ivy (Hedera Helix)
  • Peace Lily (spathiphyllum)
  • Aspidistra
  • Umbrella Plant (Schefflera)

So make a visit to your local garden centre, pick up a plant and take out those toxins!

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