Indoor plants are easy to take for granted. It’s not for nothing that a boring person often gets compared to a “potted plant.” In reality, though, houseplants do more than add organic character to interior design.
HOUSEPLANTS AND INDOOR AIR QUALITY
Many houseplants also help clean interior air in homes and businesses. In 1989, scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with help from the Associated Landscape Contractors of America found that certain common indoor plants have the ability to naturally absorb and neutralize some toxic chemicals in indoor air.
A significant discovery at the time, this has become even more important over the years as more and more attention has been focused on the health hazards of dirty indoor air.
HOW THEY HELP
Plants’ absorption of carbon dioxide through pores on their leaves as part of photosynthesis is well understood. However, the NASA scientists discovered that certain plants also can remove various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other undesirable chemicals from the air. These include benzene (found in cigarette smoke, plastics, fabrics and pesticides) and formaldehyde (contained in some cosmetics, carpet cleaners and fabric softeners) and trichloroethylene, among many others.
Medical experts know that VOCs and other airborne contaminants can trigger or exacerbate a variety of negative health issues, including asthma, allergies and other respiratory ailments. They also have been connected to certain types of cancer.
In addition to absorbing gases through their leaves and roots, houseplants can neutralize VOCs and other chemicals via the organic-rich soil they grow in.
TYPES TO PLANT
Just about any leafy, green houseplant will absorb some unwanted gases, though especially effective are aloe vera, English ivy, spider plant, Boston ferns, peace lilies and golden pothos.
GOING BEYOND PLANTS
It’s a mistake, however, to consider houseplants as your only tool in the battle to preserve indoor air quality. They should complement other effective air-cleaning strategies, such as frequent air-filter replacement, judicious use of natural ventilation (open those windows), mechanical ventilation, source control (buy natural products), and when necessary, whole-house air purification.
For more information on effective methods for cleaning the air in your Silicon Valley home, please contact us at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).