Plants As Natural Air Purifiers

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THE quality of air that we breathe in has deteriorated greatly as Man increases activities that pollute the air. Various sources of pollution include fumes from exhaust pipes of vehicles, industrial fumes, open burning and more.

Due to this, there has been an increase in diseases (such as asthma, allergies etc.) either caused or exacerbated by polluted air in the recent years compared to many decades ago when vehicles were a rare sight on the roads. This has led many modern health-conscious families to spend huge amount of money on purchasing expensive electronic air purifiers for their loved ones. Does anyone however, know that the first and best air purifier is Mother Nature herself?

Every science-learning kid knows that carbon dioxide is converted into Oxygen by plants, but very few are bothered to apply this knowledge to their benefit in their own homes! Most people prefer to grow plants and trees outside the house and breathe in polluted indoor air instead! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States estimates that the quality of air indoor is up to 10 times worse than the air outdoor. In a 1988 study by the EPA, researchers discovered more than 900 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in a newly constructed public building. VOCs can cause many health problems from allergies to even cancer. Various studies have been conducted by NASA and other leading researchers on
indoor plants being excellent natural air purifiers.

“Indoor pollution is now a much greater problem than outdoor pollution – and the risks are potentially much higher in modern houses and offices which are draught-free and have been created from modern materials,” said Dr. Jean Monro, medical director at the Breakspear Hospital for Allergy and Environmental Medicine in Hertfordshire.

That is why it is a good idea to place more plants indoors, not just to generate Oxygen for us to breathe, but to help purify the air as well. As a result, major air contaminants such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide from gas cookers, formaldehyde, benzene and other volatile compounds from building materials, fabrics, cleaning products and even toiletries are removed depending on the plant species. Other examples of contaminants that may be removed by the plants include carbon monoxide, ammonia, xylene and trichloroethylene.

It is important to note that air pollutants such as benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde can also lead to serious health problems. Constant exposure to these harmful substances will lead to symptoms such as burning eyes and throats, headaches, fatigue, and sinus and respiratory problems. Formaldehyde is a common household toxin that is released from a variety of household items such as furnishing materials (carpets and glue in chipboards). Xylene and trichloretylene vapours on the other hand are released from computers, printers and photocopiers.

Not only does having plants indoors purifies the air that we breathe it, they also help generate negative ions, which have been proven by Science to bestow plenty of other health benefits (Link to previous article: Negative Ions for Positive Health). Some recommend placing plants in our bedrooms because that is where we spend one-third of our lives. They can also be placed at locations where there is a high release of positive ions that can be quite detrimental to our health. Examples include the living room, any other rooms with many electrical equipments and the kitchen.

In a 1966 study, a bedroom with no plants had 50% more colonies of airborne microbes than a room filled with houseplants. Most indoor plants originated from the dense shade of tropical forests, which have a high rate of photosynthesis. This makes them ideal for the home for they can be placed even in a dark corner. However, it has also been suggested that one should position the plants with a balance between light and ventilation to increase the positive effects of eradicating air pollution indoors.

Listed below are some top examples of the most effective plants for air purification purpose. Each of these indoor plants removes one or more pollutants from the air and can also help regulate air humidity. Each plant however has certain requirements. For example, certain plants need to be exposed to sunlight for certain duration of time such as once in every 3 months.

If one is daunted by the number of plants, researchers in India suggest that a mere use of 3 plants indoors can be equally effective in purifying the air. The study in India showed a successful reduction of various disorders such as eye irritation (52%), lower respiratory symptoms (34%), headaches (24%), upper respiratory symptoms (by 20%), lung impairment (10-12%) and asthma (9%). Due to an increase of health, a 20% increase of productivity among employees was also noted, as well as the reduction of energy costs by 15%. The top 3 plants used in this Indian study were the Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) and Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum).

We would like to caution readers that some of the plants listed here are poisonous to pets, babies and children. It is therefore necessary to take precautions to prevent ingestion of these plants as they can even cause death. Some plants may also cause allergy reactions to certain individuals when they come in contact with the plants. We therefore advice that the responsible plant be promptly removed to avoid exacerbation of allergy problems!

There are many other plants that are effective in removing air pollutants, but the listed ones are those that have been extensively researched scientifically by leading researchers. Feel free to experiment with other plants. You may end up finding better ones that suit your body! For example, Geraniums are effective in acting as an excellent indoor insect repellent.

You now know that certain indoor plants can boost the quality of your health as well as beautifying your homes. Let us all be green indoors. Start growing indoor plants. If you are not keen in having too many indoor plants, try combining them with basic electronic air purifiers and negative ion generators for maximum health benefits.

Author: Silambarasu Karuppiah

Copyright © 2012 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources
Holistic Living Annex (Volume 1, Issue 6 - JULY 2012 Edn)

12 Responses for “ Plants As Natural Air Purifiers”

  1. Juanita Edwards says:

    I always loved my plants indoors. They give you this refreshing feeling when you walk in.

  2. mandygirl says:

    don't turn your house into a jungle @juanita. overcrowding is bad.. lolzz

  3. Juanita Edwards says:

    With all the health benefits listed above? Never my dearest! If only there is an indoor stream too, I'd be living the life.. LOL

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dear Silamb,

    Keeping plants in the house would be helpful as air purifier but thats only in the day time where photosynthesis is available. Further, as according to plant physiology studies, they will release CO2 at night time. Keeping plants near to your bedroom can cause inhaling of more CO2 that released by plants and this in turn will make you feel tired than usual in the morning.This just my humble opinion Silamb. ;)

  5. Areca Palm Lover says:

    Oh I love the Areca Palm. They're just so homely. I put one in every corner of my living room and they look fantastic. It gives you this tropical ambience in the house. I decorate the floor with some smooth pebbles to make it look nice. Everyone who entered my home loved it!

  6. Randy Nelsson says:

    Good article. I love plants particularly in my kitchen. Somehow it makes the place fresh and inviting.

    @anonymous, I have plants in my bedroom and I love them!! Of course, as what mandygirl said, just do not crowd the area to make your bedroom like a jungle. Sleeping with another person beside you also contribute to the production of CO2 all the time. So is this a suggestion that we should only sleep by ourselves? Furthermore, the amount of O2 released by the plant during the daytime is extremely beneficial, and from what I know, they release plenty too! That is why I place my plants by the window.

    This too is my humble opinion. I wonder if anyone agrees??

  7. Hanna Laura says:

    I think I should increase the number of plants at home now. I have serious allergy with the air. I know it's the air. It's just too dusty around here and my house is just by the roadside!!

  8. Curtis Johnson says:

    Dear @Anonymous, just bring your plants in during the daytime and leave it outside the bedroom during the nights if that is a concern to you. I've slept with plants my entire life and I have yet to feel tired in the morning. I felt nothing but energised. Plants sorta give you this purified feeling; as though you are physically and mentally cleansed. It's just probably my imagination. LMAO

  9. Kirsty Lu says:

    Hi guys, I know that inhaling carbon dioxide in high enough concentrations can cause asphyxiation. But we're not going to grow a jungle in the room. I believe that placing a small plant in the room is not going to give us much damage.

  10. Lillie says:

    Just a question? What about those people who stay in jungles? Will they suffer from health problems too. I'm sure all the plants there give out CO2 in the nights. Am curious???

  11. Pam Rowe says:

    Our ancestors didn't have houses back then. They slept on barks of the trees in the forests. I know some tribes still do. What about them? I thought many researchers concluded that native tribes lived a longer, healthier and joyous life?

  12. QQ says:

    How do we know if we are allergic to certain plants?


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