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Common Plants vs. Indoor Air Pollution

Many homes suffer with a condition called 'Sick Building Syndrome', the term used to describe the effects felt when living in a home built with hazardous materials. The products used during construction historically have been laden with chemicals that are dangerous to the inhabitants. Carpet, paint, various glues and wood products exude fumes which cause many health concerns to people. Ventilation systems are also a culprit in the spread of this problem. Sick Building Syndrome should not be confused with 'Building Related Illness', which is familiar to people because of the devastating Legionnaire's Disease outbreak. 

Some of the chemicals in the air of homes with this condition include formaldehyde, VOCs, benzene and various carcinogens. Biological contaminants also contribute to this problem. Since homes have become airtight to conserve energy, there is less air circulation available, which in turn allows mold and various bacteria to grow. These chemicals and biological factors cause symptoms such as respiratory distress, headaches, a sore throat, extreme fatigue and skin problems. If someone is suffering from any of these symptoms and there is no obvious cause for it, Sick Building Syndrome should be considered.

NASA has devoted years to complete studies relating to the problem of sick homes, and has determined that plants can save the health of the people living in them. When a plant removes the carbon dioxide from the air, it replaces it with life-renewing oxygen. The trace levels of chemicals floating in the air are absorbed by the roots and then biodegraded by the microbes in the soil where they are rendered impotent. 

Certain plants are more effective for the job of removing chemical pollution in the household, generally being those native to the tropics. The following list shows the ten most effective plants for improving the air quality in a home:

  • Boston Fern
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Gerbera Daisy
  • Pygmy Date Palm
  • Janet Craig
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Kimberley Queen Fern
  • Rubber Plant
  • English Ivy
  • Weeping Fig

Please see the following links for more information:

Yard and Garden Briefs

University of Hawaii

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Iowa State University Extension

NASA







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