Using Plants as Air Filters

Our homes, schools and work environment can be filled with toxins without anyone being aware of the environmental impact on our health. Part of detoxing our environment means eliminating household products that leave a chemical scent, such as candles, scented hand sanitizers, nail polish and cleaning supplies. Other chemicals are harder to eliminate such as chemicals in paint, furniture and rugs. The most efficient air filters remove dust, pollen, mold, smoke and other irritants although they impede the flow of air through cooling and heating ducts which ultimately can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the unit. Air purifiers have become popular, however these are expensive and most only work in one room at a time.

Keeping our air supply clean can be easier and less expensive than you might imagine.  One of the best ways to eliminate some of the worst air offenders is to place certain varieties of plants around the house. Studies conducted by Vadoud Niri, Ph.D. at the State University of New York at Oswego in 2016 were setup to determine which plants have the highest rate of effectiveness at eliminating volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene (found in cleaning supplies), acetone (found in nail polish and nail polish remover) and formaldehyde. These studies showed that 4 plants are particularly useful to purify indoor air and can eliminate up to 90% of these VOCs.

Instead of investing in expensive air filters or air purifiers, consider purchasing one or more of these common house plants. During Niri’s testing, the bromeliad plant was exposed to eight VOC’s in a 12 hour period of time.  It absorbed up to 80% of six of these compounds. The bromeliad removed toluene and benzene which are two common chemicals released when burning candles. The dracaena plant had the best performance absorbing acetone at a 94% rate.  The spider plant wasn’t as good at absorbing toluene and benzene, but did an excellent job eliminating some of the other VOC’s such as ethylbenzene, p-Xylenes, o-Xylene and acetone. The jade plant removed 80% of all these substances, although approximately 70% of acetone.

The bottom line is that you can bring a little bit of nature into your child’s room by adding a few plants and clean up the air they breathe all at the same time. Invest in a bromeliad, dracaena, spider plant or jade plant for best results. Avoid plastic containers when potting the plants, because most of these release toxic chemicals into the air. If repotting the plant, be sure to choose OMRI certified potting soil. Happy planting!