Can Indoor Plants Really Curb Air Pollution?

First Posted: Dec 06, 2016 03:20 AM EST

An ongoing research is focusing on how effective indoor plants are in curbing air pollution.

The News-Gazette reported that University of Illinois Professor Chris Enroth wrote an article regarding the inevitable presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in almost everything inside people's homes. From inks to oils, to plastics, to rubbers, to detergents, to nail polish removers, there are actually up to 180 different airborne compounds present in households.

According to Minnesota Department of Health, these VOCs could cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, worsening of asthma symptoms or even serious diseases such as cancer, liver and kidney damage, and central nervous system damage.

But Enroth says there is something people could do in preventing these VOCs to accumulate and cause sickness: indoor plants.

"It is believed that most of these air pollutants are filtered out as part of the plant's photosynthesis activities. The air-cleansing process is ongoing, so long as the plant is growing and healthy," she said.

In fact, an ongoing study at the State University of New York published in American Chemical Society says that there are five common houseplants that extract compounds from the air. One of these plants is Dracaena, which is effective at absorbing acetone, and bromeliads, which is effective in absorbing eight other compounds used in the study.

Although it is not yet proven to be 100 percent effective, Enroth pointed out that having indoor plants in homes, offices, schools, hospitals and business also have a whole lot of psychological benefits such as better productivity, learning and reduced depression and anxiety for patients.

"What's needed is more research on the effects of houseplants in homes and workplaces," Enroth added. "We know indoor plants assist in air cleansing; we just don't know to what extent. Until that research becomes published, all gardeners agree: The world is a better place with more plants. So keep your rubber tree, spider plant and dracaena. In fact, consider adding more indoor plants to your living and work environments."

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