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The Air Quality Blog by Rabbit Air

The Best Houseplants for Improving Indoor Air Quality

It’s no secret that vehicle and industrial emissions negatively impact air quality outdoors. However, when it comes to purifying the air that you breathe at home, don’t forget to think inside the box. While today’s energy-efficient homes are great at reducing heat transfer and lowering energy costs, they also trap in airborne toxins that are produced by synthetic building materials, cleaning supplies, and other chemicals used inside. This is sometimes referred to as Sick Building Syndrome. Indeed, the toxins in your home can be quite harmful, especially to those who may be suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions. In fact, some cases of indoor air pollution may be far worse than any corresponding outdoor conditions. Fortunately, there is a solution for purifying your indoor space, one that will save money and the environment at the same time – houseplants.

A Special Thanks to NASA
Plants are essential to human life; they convert carbon dioxide into useable oxygen. As a bonus, they also remove dangerous elements from the air. These toxins are either metabolized into harmless byproducts or simply absorbed into a plant’s tissues. It was NASA who first began researching houseplants during the late 1980s in an effort to maintain healthier air for astronauts who were on extended missions in orbit. They found that some botanical species are just as adept at filtering interior spaces as they are at cleaning outside air.

Most common houseplants come from tropical regions where they have adapted to low light under thick canopy ceilings. As a result, these species are expert photosynthisizers and can also absorb some of the most common and toxic airborne pollutants, including:

  • Formaldehyde –Released from cleaners and building materials like plywood and foam insulation.
  • Benzene –Emitted from paints, oils, and synthetic plastics.
  • Trichloroethylene –Found in adhesives, varnishes and paints.
  • Toluene –A common byproduct of nail polish and glue.

Seven Effective Houseplants
NASA scientists studied 19 different species over the course of two years. Here are some houseplants that are highly effective at purifying indoor air:

  1. Weeping figFicus benjamina2 –Also known as a ficus tree, the Ficus benjamina is a popular evergreen plant that helps rid your home of formaldehyde, toluene, and even xylene. It grows best under bright indirect light, with frequent watering, and at higher temperatures. Unfortunately, it is poisonous to animals, so you want to make sure to place it in an area that your dog or cat cannot access.

 

  1. Bamboo palmChamaedorea costaricana –As its common name suggests, the Chamaedorea sefritzii is a cross between bamboo and a palm. Due to its bamboo-like stalk, it is sometimes referred to as a bamboo reed plant. This is one of most popular houseplants all over the world. Not only do you get the lavish look of a palm, but you also get that ancient tranquility provided by bamboo. Perhaps this is because it is one of the best species on NASA’s list of formaldehyde-cleansing plants. This makes it a good choice for today’s synthetic-based homes. Try to mimic its natural environment with moist soil and low light.

 

  1. Snake plantSnake plant –The Sansevieria tifasciata is also famously called the mother-in-law plant. This African native is great at absorbing formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, and nitrogen oxide. This is a hardy beginner plant that requires little attention. While it grows well under bright light, it can easily adapt to darker corners as well.

 

  1. Peace lilySpathiphyllum cochlearispathum RTBGSpathiphyllum includes many species that all share similar features. It is known in Hawaii as the Mauna Loa. This is a highly popular choice due to its beautiful white flowers and dark green foliage. It is highly effective at removing benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. Moreover, it tends to prefer low light and little water, so it’s fairly easy to maintain. The peace lily is moderately toxic, so avoid ingesting the leaves or flowers. More than anything, however, it’s just plain intoxicating.

 

  1. Hedera helix 'Buttercup' Urn 2000pxEnglish Ivy –The Hera helix is an outdoor vine that has been a vital part of the European landscape for centuries. Its invasive nature can be tamed by keeping it indoors. Here, it helps to remove formaldehyde, xylene, and benzene. As a bonus, it even reduces airborne mold. When it comes to care, it generally grows best under direct light at a constant temperature. Make sure to provide plenty of water in addition to well-drained soil.

 

  1. Gerbera daisy –This is one of two species from the NASA study that is not considered a true houseplant; however, the Gerbera jamesonii is the most effective for treating benzene-contaminated air. Many common tobacco products on the market contain significant amounts of benzene. Therefore, smokers may want to consider the hidden benefits of this showy piece; it’s known for its stunning, brightly-colored flowers. Just make sure to give it plenty of direct sunlight.

 

Maximizing the Air Purification Benefits of Your Plants
When taking advantage of the cleansing power of plants, don’t narrow in on the leaves alone. According to NASA, the root zone is where the action happens. In order to encourage maximum absorption, you need make sure that your soil is exposed to air. It helps to use pots that are at least six inches wide. You can even go one step further by incorporating an activated carbon filter near the plant’s base.

As another general rule of thumb, avoid overwatering these in-home cleansers. Not only does this kill most roots, but it also creates excess moisture, which can lead to further problems like mold. In addition, it is helpful to try to create the dense, low-light conditions that most of these jungle-dwellers prefer.

Ultimately, the more houseplants you have, the cleaner the air in your home. In fact, NASA suggests using one plant for every 100 feet of living space. With all the chemicals, detergents, and synthetics that may be used in your home on a daily basis, don’t you think it is important to keep an eye on those hidden health risks? Why not let nature take some of the responsibility? Get in touch with your local nursery for more tips and suggestions. Ultimately, houseplants are a great way to improve the look of your home and the well being of your family.

BenzeneFormaldehydefresh airHealthhealth problemsHomeIndoor Air PollutionIndoor Air Qualitymold sporesRabbit AirVOCVolatile Organic Compound

Five Fun Facts About Air

Peace Lily1) Flowers can brighten up any home décor, but did you know that they can also help to add oxygen to the air and filter out pollutants?  While using plants alone won’t totally purifiy the air, you can give your air purifier a boost by placing certain potted plants around the home.  Some flower powerhouses include elegant peace lilies, which can help reduce harmful VOCs, such as formaldehyde, or colorful gerbera daisies that can help to filter out benzene.

2) Take a deep breath! Our lungs can hold between four and six liters of air on average, though we use only a small portion of this space with each breath. Each minute, the average adult breathes in and out around seven liters of air. That’s enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every 227 days!

3) Did you know that most of our oxygen doesn’t come from the forest, but from the sea? Ocean algae produce the majority of the oxygen in the atmosphere. These plants may be tiny, but due to their huge numbers they are able to pump out tons of clean air for us to breathe.

4) Not even astronauts are safe from having smoggy skies obscure their view!  Astronauts report that thick smog over cities or highly polluted areas can be seen from the international space station, and that the amount of air pollution visible to them from orbit has been increasing.

5) China has some of the smoggiest skies in the world, and in an effort to detect harmful pollutants in their air, they have come up with a surprising solution – a team of people trained to detect harmful gases using their sense of smell!  These special sniffers can tell the difference between a surprisingly large number of gases, and can help city officials become aware of potentially dangerous situations.

Air PollutionAir PurifierBenzeneCity Air PollutionFormaldehydeIndoor Air PollutionSmogVOC

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