Plants -- A Beautiful, Natural Way to Clean the Air

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 4:55 PM



Time for a visit to the greenhouse!

Plants are a beautiful addition to any home or office environment, and most people are aware that they freshen the air by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. But did you know that plants can help improve indoor air quality by filtering out several toxic chemicals, as well? 

NASA scientists, concerned about the air quality in sealed space crafts, conducted a study which showed that plants were able to remove nearly 87% of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air within 24 hours. (Pottorff)

Even if you’re not an astronaut, it’s likely that these chemicals are affecting your health. They’re present in inks, plastics, paper, cleaning products, and many other common substances. While our buildings aren’t as air-tight as a space shuttle, modern energy-efficient building practices insure that heat (or air-conditioning) stays in and the elements stay out. Unfortunately, that also means that chemicals have a chance to accumulate in the recirculated air. 

Plants absorb many harmful chemicals along with the carbon dioxide that they “breathe.” They also help remove bacteria, mold spores, and pollen, which is good news for people with allergies. Even the microbes that live in the plants’ potting soil absorb toxins from the air. (Janowiak)

Of course, like all living organisms, plants have their limits – we should still try to eliminate toxins from our environment as much as possible. Plants may also make some problems worse, as they tend to increase the humidity in the air (which can lead to mold) and their flowers will aggravate some allergies. But in general, a few plants around your desk will have a positive effect on both your mental and physical health!



WORK CITED:

Janowiak, Maria. “9 Air-Cleaning Houseplants That Are Almost Impossible to Kill.” Greatist Daily. Greatist. 3 March, 2015. Web. 3 November, 2015. 

Pottorff, Laura. “Plants ‘Clean’ Air Inside Our Homes.” Colorado State University. 5 January, 2010. Web. 3 November, 2015.
 

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