Air pollution is a concern in the home as much as at a busy, trafficked intersection. Indoors, our air is exposed to an array of chemicals, fumes, and some "volatile organic compounds" (VOCs) commonly released by solvents, paints, adhesives, and other innocuous household items that we use without knowing of their risks. Formaldehyde, used in paint, is a common culprit. These substances can be harmful to our health, and they can cause allergies, headaches, and respiratory problems, among others. In fact, some of these substances are known carcinogens.
These houseplants, according to NASA, can purify the air of VCOs and other pollutants and odors. Along with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, NASA conducted a study in the '80s that found that these specimens filter out harmful chemicals, which was especially useful in enclosed space facilities. Within the home, they work just as well. Look for these plants to improve the quality of air in your living spaces:
Big, dramatic spikes outlined in red: this indoor tree can grow as high as your ceiling, and it adds a touch of exotic to your milieu. Known also as the red-edged Dracaena, it's useful against benzene, xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde, compounds often present in paint, varnishes, solvents, cleaning solutions, plastics, and synthetic fibers. It's a low-maintenance specimen, requiring only minimal watering. Place under shade.
Similar to the red-edged dragon tree, this variant of the Dracaena family reduces trichloroethylene and other airborne compounds emitted by varnishes. It can grow up to 12 feet high, and its long, yellow-striped leaves are especially decorative, though perhaps not as dramatically so as its red-edged cousin. Place under partial light; water moderately, ensuring that it's in a well-drained pot.
This flowering shrub can purify the air of formaldehyde, which can come from varnishes, paint, lacquer, or foam insulation. The blooms come in bright, head-turning hues of pink, red, purple, and peach, with white variants as well, perfect for decking the home in color. Take note, however, that the flowers are toxic, so best place them out of reach of children and pets. Place in a cool part of the home, ensuring that it gets plenty of light.
A low-maintenance flowering plant, it lends striking elegance to home interiors with its long, slim stalk and its white blooms. NASA has ranked it first in efficiently removing the three most common VCOs: formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. Likewise, it filters out spores, toluene and xylene. Place under bright but indirect light, and water deeply.
For more air-purifying houseplants, check out Part 1
and Part 2