Many houseplants act as an air filter, but finding one that fits on a desk offers a little more of a challenge. If you want to maximize the air quality near your work station, consider trying one of the plants NASA has found helpful in removing common household and office carcinogens as well as carbon dioxide.
Gerbera daisies are perfect potted flowers with smile-inducing blooms. The plants pack a surprisingly impressive air filtration system for such small, delicate body. They filter out benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde--three of the most common toxic chemicals found in household and work environments.
Benzene can induce drowsiness, headaches and dizziness. Trichloroethylene can cause difficulty in breathing and headaches and may damage internal organs. Formaldehyde can cause allergies, asthma and headaches. All of these chemicals may cause cancer. They can be found in all types of common household products, including bathmats, plywood, solvents, glues, paints and cleansers.
Peace lilies, also known as Easter lilies, filter all the same chemicals as Gerbera daisies, but they require a little more of an expert touch. They are still moderately easy to grow for the average experienced gardener.
If you are ready for a challenge and want to maximize the effectiveness of your plant's filtration, try installing charcoal filters in the soil and a small fan in the pot to make your plant actively filter your environment rather than just passively filter the air.
This species of chrysanthemum is the perfect size for a desk plant and does reasonably well when grown indoors. It removes the same three harmful carcinogens from the air as Gerbera daisies and peace lilies.
If you aren't in the market for flowers, consider a spider plant. These plants can do well in low-light environments, which makes them a good choice in offices and homes. They are easy to maintain, look nice and filter out formaldehyde from the air.
The snake plant, also called mother-in-law's tongue, is another leafy plant that survives well indoors. It is somewhat similar in appearance to the spider plant, but it has much thicker leaves that tend to grow up more than out. Like the spider plant, it excels at removing formaldehyde from the air.