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September 23, 2010 at 12:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Air-Purifying, Low-Maintenance Houseplants

By Helen More Blogs by This Author

Who knew it would come to this? Through the use of durable, bug-resistant building materials, treated to retain heat and slough off mildew, we thought we were creating a safe home for our loved ones. But, somewhere along the line, we took a wrong turn. Now that our homes are airtight, weatherproof and invader proof, a new problem has emerged.

Sick-Building Syndrome

Airtight buildings are as effective at keeping indoor pollutants inside as they are at keeping outside pollutants outside. According to Dr. James Mercola, the air we breathe inside our homes and in the office setting can be up to 10 times more polluted than the air right outside our doors.

Some of the toxins found inside homes and buildings include: ammonia, benzene (carcinogen), toluene, and xylene. These toxins can cause damage by touching the skin and being breathed in or swallowed. Toluene and xylene may be found in every day items such as fingernail polish, paints and paint thinners, glues and adhesives, and in wood stain.

Since ventilation is a problem, most of today's homes are filled with more indoor pollutants than we find outdoors. Everything from our own dead skin to dust, dust mites, pet dander, beauty products, Teflon on pots and pans, formaldehyde, and asbestos combine within airtight homes, forming a very dangerous and toxic living zone. In the name of safety, efficiency and quality, we have inadvertently made our "safe" environment anything but safe.

Less than Optimal Air Quality

Consider the air inside an airplane. You can't open a window or vent on an airplane, because the decompression would cause the craft to shake into a hundred pieces, but passengers often find the atmosphere in airplanes to be stuffy and uncomfortable. An airtight building, however, won't shake into pieces if the windows are opened, so opening them up to let in some outside air, while releasing some stagnant inside air, would be a good place to start. Too bad windows in airtight structures are sealed. In many instances, just like an airplane, even overhead fans and vents can only move the same stale air from one room to the next.

Houseplants to the Rescue

Interestingly, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) came up with a solution to this problem way back in the 1980s. Though they didn't know how handy this information would be for the 21st century homeowner, they did realize that it would be of huge benefit to orbiting space stations and astronauts. While studying household plants, they discovered that living greens were excellent air purifiers, as well as decor enhancers.

Since then, a study conducted by the University of Agriculture in Norway concluded that plants increase humidity levels, decrease dust levels, and actually play a role in reducing cold-related illnesses. As if that wasn't enough, they also determined that, when plants are located in the workplace, workers ended up taking less sick days, which didn't come as a surprise. After all, plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. What did come as a surprise, however, was that a good many plants also have the ability to remove harmful pollutants, such as benzene and formaldehyde, from indoor air.

Houseplants with Air-Improving Qualities

Some of the plants often used as home decorations include but are not limited to:

  • Philodendron
  • Elephant Ear Philodendron
  • Christmas cactus
  • Cornstalk dracaena
  • English ivy
  • Green spider plant
  • Dracaena deremensis
  • Dracaena deremensis
  • Weeping fig
  • African violet
  • Golden pothos
  • Peace lily
  • Philodendron selloum
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Bamboo or reed palm
  • Snake plant
  • Red-edged dracaena

Before filling your home with plants, it's important that you research each variety to determine which plants are dangerous if ingested by humans and/or pets. If you're concerned about caring for indoor plants, you can relax. There are several varieties that require minimal care and can hold up under changing temperatures and occasional, accidental neglect. What could be better than an easy, natural way to beautify and purify your home?


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