It’s probably been a long time since you’ve studied photosynthesis.
How trees and other outdoor plants use sunlight to process carbon dioxide. This colorless gas is then turned into oxygen, which we need to sustain life.
Lately, there’s been some interest in what plants can do when they live indoors.
The research is still in its infancy.
But there’s evidence that potted leafy greens may clean the environment inside a building.
If that’s the case, this is a huge deal. Because indoor air pollution is a big problem, especially for people with respiratory conditions.
Dirty buildings are now linked with a number of health conditions, including asthma. Children seem disproportionately affected by toxic ridden indoor air.
It’s known that asthma in children improves in the presence of a good indoor air filter. But air filters do not remove certain toxins, and may increase the level of ozone. (Ozone can damage the lungs and irritate the throat.)
Plants, on the other hand, may offer a more natural alternative, which doesn’t increase the amount of ozone we breathe.
Do Indoor Plants Come With Health Benefits?
Plants appear to be very useful in removing toxins from indoor air, according to at least one study.
But more research is needed to determine exactly how many plants we need per square foot of living space.
Just like they do outside, plants brought indoors stay alive through photosynthesis. So they ultimately release oxygen into the air.
Indoor plants also either neutralize toxins. Or they store them, rendering them harmless, according to a 2011 study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal.
There’s evidence that certain kinds of plants can help reduce formaldehyde. This highly toxic a substance is often released by modern construction materials.
Modern construction adds to the problem, because it’s not drafty, as is typical with older homes.
Drafty homes mean higher energy costs. But they allow for a healthy exchange of indoor/outdoor air.
The Environmental Health Perspectives journal cited earlier research conducted inside trailers that temporarily housed people displaced by hurricanes.
Inside the trailers was an unhealthy level of formaldehyde, at .18 parts per million.
After plants growing in a base that contained activated charcoal and clay pebbles, the numbers looked much better, at .03 parts per million. This reading was within WHO safety limits.
The author also noted that a “small fan-assisted planter/air filter” were used in this study. I do not know what exactly this means, or if the fan made a huge difference in the results.
Separate research cited in this paper also found that indoor plants can remove formaldehyde. But just how much was dependent upon toxins reaching the roots.
For the average indoor plant owner, I think the practical application would be stirring the potting soil on occasion.
What Types of Plants Clean Indoor Air?
Some plants appear to be better than others at cleaning the air. Also, for indoors you want a plant that will thrive and survive in low sunlight.
The top 10 plants recommended in the paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives were:
- Areca palm
- Lady palm
- Bamboo palm
- Rubber plant
- English ivy
- Dwarf date palm
- Boston fern
- Peace lily
Peace lilies, by the way, are relatively easy to grow. I know, because I owned one for years. It only died because I failed to water it.
These hardy and popular plants are even available online.
I’ve never been good with plants and this lasted far longer than any of the others. I do need to get another one and I need to take much better care of it.
Indoor air pollution is a very serious problem and one that’s made worse by tightly built homes. This links to an earlier post on 5 Ways To Get Rid of Indoor Air Pollution.
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