Rid your home of indoor pollution the natural way

Elephant ear philodendrons

They may require a bit of care, but leafy green houseplants come
with extra perks. Care for them, and they’ll care for you right
back, removing excess toxins from the air, oxygenating your home or
workspace and regulating the humidity near wherever they’re
placed.
They may require a bit of care, but leafy green houseplants come with extra perks. Care for them, and they’ll care for you right back, removing excess toxins from the air, oxygenating your home or workspace and regulating the humidity near wherever they’re placed.

“Some of the plants that really can clean your home are pretty common,” said Peter Quintanilla, a volunteer with the Monterey Bay Master Gardener’s hotline, which serves Monterey and San Benito Counties. “English ivy, spider plant and peace lily are all good.”

Other common varieties that can be especially helpful, said Quintanilla, are weeping fig, heart leaf and elephant ear philodendrons and three types of dracaena’s: red edged, corn stalk and Janet Craig.

Some of the plants Quintanilla suggests may sound strange to those lacking green thumbs, but it’s a bit easier to explain what the plants can do for an office or workspace.

“Through the process of photosynthesis, the plant draws air through its leaves, and it can remove things like formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene from the air,” said Quintanilla, who noted formaldehyde is found in furniture, carpeting, foam insulation and plywood while benzene is found in inks, dyes, rubber products and synthetics like plastic.

For a more complete look at household toxins, home plant buyers may want to check out a copy of “How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office,” by Dr. B. C. Wolverton, who notes that indoor air pollution can be as much as 10 times worse than the outdoor pollution most people are aware of.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five threats to public health,” writes Wolverton. “Yet millions of people fail to realize the serious nature of the problem, or even worse, fail to recognize that there is a problem.”

The search for cleaner indoor air, according to both men, began with NASA.

On a mission to find out what could possibly clean the recirculated air of a space colony, such as those science fiction writers have often placed on the moon, NASA engineers discovered something quite simple: plants effectively cleaned the air around themselves of harmful chemicals, wrote Wolverton. The engineers did find one shortcoming: most of the plants didn’t help with cigarette smoke, said Quintanilla.

One other thing they did do, though, was regulate humidity.

“A lot of the air will go through the leaves, and if the indoors is too dry, (the plant) will provide some humidity to it,” said Quintanilla.

So, to make your own home or office a little more people friendly, go green … literally.

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