Insulating your home can reduce air quality and trap pollutants indoors by eliminating the exchange of air through doors, windows, cracks and crevices. Houseplants can reduce the pollutants within your home and allow you to keep your insulation intact. NASA conducted a study to determine how efficiently plants could remove common air pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from their surroundings. Certain plants removed 87 percent of these pollutants from the environment within 24 hours, but to be effective air cleaners, one plant per 100 square feet was needed.
Benzene is a solvent that has been shown to cause mutations in embryos and has been implicated in cancer and blood disorders. Inhaling high levels of benzene can cause dizziness, euphoria, headache, weakness and irregular heartbeat. Low levels of long-term exposure to benzene cause headaches, drowsiness and loss of appetite. Benzene is found in rubber, detergents, dyes, gasoline, inks, paints, plastics, oils, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fibers and tobacco smoke. It is also emitted into the air and may enter your home by exhaust from motor vehicles and by burning oil and coal.
Plants that are effective in removing benzene from the air are English Ivy, chrysanthemum, peace lily, Dracaena marginata, Warneckei, Gerbera daisy and Janet Craig.
Formaldehyde is a chemical that irritates the eyes, throat and nose. Exposure to formaldehyde can result in headaches and may trigger asthma. The EPA speculates that formaldehyde may be linked to a form of throat cancer found in people who have lived long-term in mobile homes. Commonly used commercially and for products in the home or office, formaldehyde is in foam insulation, floor coverings, fire retardants, wax paper, facial tissues, grocery bags, paper towels, cleaning products, binders, natural gas and cigarette smoke. Formaldehyde is also used in adhesives that are found in pressed-wood products, such as particle board, plywood and fiberboard.
Plants that are effective in removing formaldehyde from the air are azalea, mother-in-law’s tongue, philodendron, chrysanthemum, spider plant, corn plant, golden pothos and bamboo palm.
Trichloroethylene is used in metal degreasers and dry cleaning fluids. Other uses include varnishes, paints, lacquers and adhesives. Trichloroethylene exposure causes nervous system symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, weakness, confusion and numbness of the face. The National Cancer Institute reports that trichloroethylene contains carcinogens that may cause cancer of the liver. It has also been implicated in cancers of the kidney, cervix and lymphatic system.
Plants that are effective in removing trichloroethylene from the air are Dracaena marginata, Gerbera daisy, Warneckei, chrysanthemum and peace lily.