Most people are surprised to learn that the air inside our homes and workplaces is often more polluted with health damaging chemicals than outside. When we close our windows and doors closed, toxic air can be trapped inside. Off-gassing chemicals into our indoor air can occur from furniture, cleaning products, building materials, carpet, electronics and toys for many years.
Studies show that certain tropical plants, which are commonly used as houseplants, are quite effective in removing many pollutants from the air and replacing them with breathable oxygen.
Common Chemicals, their Sources and the Plants that Detox them
When choosing a plant for a certain space, consider the chemicals that are most likely in greatest concentration in that area, as well as any symptoms that you or your family members may be suffering.
Formaldehyde (the most prevalent indoor pollutant)
wood floorboard resins, plywood paneling, synthetic carped dyes and fabrics, particleboard, lacquers, varnishes, and sealers, cleaning products, paper bags, waxed papers, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, personal care products
paints, furniture wax, polishes, inks, glue, tobacco smoke and used to make plastics, resins, lubricants, detergents, and drugs
dry cleaning, some wood finishes, adhesives, paint removers, stain removers, printing inks
solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries and in tobacco smoke, vehicle exhaust
paint thinners, paintbrush cleaners, nail polish, glues, inks and stain removers
irritation to nose, mouth and throat, and in severe cases, swelling of the larynx and lungs
irritation to eyes, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, increased heart rate, confusion and in some cases can result in unconsciousness
excitement, dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting followed by drowsiness and coma
irritation to mouth and throat, dizziness, headache, confusion, heart problems, liver and kidney damage, coma
irritation of the eyes and nose; weakness, exhaustion, confusion, euphoria, dizziness, headache; dilated pupils, lacrimation, anxiety, insomnia; numbness, tingling; dermatitis, liver and kidney damage.
Osmunda japonica (Japanese royal fern), other ferns, Spathiphyllum spp. (peace lily), Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant)
Epipremnum aureum (devil’s ivy or ‘money plant’)*, Spathiphyllum spp. (peace lily)
Epipremnum aureum (devil’s ivy or ‘money plant’)*
Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant)
Hedera helix (common ivy), Philodendron spp., Sanseviera spp. (devil’s tongue or snake plant)
The top 5 chemicals tested in the NASA study, where they may be found in our homes, the symptoms of exposure and the plants that were found to detoxify them from indoor air.
*Grown on an activated carbon filter system. Activated carbon is available for potted plants.
- General VOC removal - Purple Waffle, Purple Heart, English Ivy, Asparagus Fern, Variegated Wax and Crassula portulacea (jade plant)
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - Removal attributed to bacterial species present on leaves of many ornamental plants (nonspecific)
- Mercury vapor - Tillandsia Usneoides (Spanish moss)
- Ozone - Snake Plant, Spider Plant, Golden Pothos
- General toxin removal - Spider Plant, Peace Lily, English Ivy and Golden Pothos
Considerations for improving air quality with plants:
- Allow fresh air to move through living and work spaces. This will improve the efficacy of the plant removing toxins and allow the toxins to be removed to outside
- Use plants that have not been heavily sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, etc.
- Take care with your choice of soil, as above, minimise soil heavy in pesticides, etc.
- Use ceramic pots rather than plastic
- Keep the plants from developing mould by watering appropriately
- Dust the leaves regularly to keep the space dust free and improve efficacy of the plants detoxification.
Adding one or many plants to your home or office space is both aesthetically pleasing and has wonderful health benefits.
Our Top Plants
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Found to be one of the most effective plants for filtering the air of toxins.
Filters: formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene & toluene, carbon monoxide, acetone.
Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)
Filters: formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene & toluene
Chinese Evergeen (Aglaonema modestum)
Filters: formaldehyde, benzene
Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
Filters: benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, xylene & toluene
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Filters: formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene & toluene, airborne particles of fecal matter
Devli’s Ivy (Pothos plant (Epipremnum aureum))
Filters: formaldehyde, benzene, xylene & toluene
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Filters: formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene & toluene
Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis)
Filters: trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, xylene & toluene
Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera)
Filters: benzene, formaldehyde
Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
Filters: formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene
Written by Dr. Jess Harvey B.Sc. (Anat, Phys), B.Ap.Sci (Comp. Med.), Ma Osteo., Registered Osteopath and Director of Head 2 Toe Health.
We provide Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Massage, Life Coaching and Counselling in Springwood (Brisbane) and Oxenford (Gold Coast). We aim to get you as well as possible, as fast as possible, permanently. We believe in a thorough approach to restoring and maintaining health and address many aspects of our lifestyles that can contribute to pain, stiffness, dis-ease and disease. For any further information, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07) 3208 8308.
This information is intended as a general guide only and is not specific for any particular condition or situation. This information is for educational purposes only. Please seek specific advice for your individual circumstances.