When NASA tested the air in Skylab 3, it discovered high levels of airborne pollutants. Further studies revealed that, although fan-based carbon filters removed these pollutants, houseplants were nearly as effective. Our homes are not space-based living quarters but our indoor air is often similarly polluted. Incorporate the right plants and have cleaner air without NASA's carbon-based fan.
Carpet, electronics, furniture and paint may release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). According to a University of Georgia study, the body easily absorbs these toxic gases, such as benzene and octane, and even older homes may contain high levels of these pollutants. Purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternata), the study indicates, absorbed VOCs at the highest rate, followed by English ivy (Hedera helix) and purple heart (Setcreasea pallida).
Carbon monoxide is a common indoor pollutant resulting from tobacco smoke, fireplaces and gas appliances. Although no houseplant can correct for inefficient appliances, the University of Illinois lists gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums as top carbon monoxide absorbers. These two blooming plants are usually temporary indoor residents, but the highly rated Dracaena marginata and heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens) grow vigorously indoors.
Widely differing materials release formaldehyde. Paper grocery bags, paper towels, particle board and some household cleaners emit this surprisingly widespread pollutant. The University of Illinois, quoting a NASA study, again lists chrysanthemums as a top formaldehyde absorber. Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), Dracaena massangeana, philodendron and spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) also efficiently filter formaldehyde from the air.