If you’re thinking that you may be protected from air pollution when you’re inside your house, sorry to burst your bubble, but your home’s indoor air is likely more toxic than the air outside.
The culprit is volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are emitted as gases from ingredients found in many synthetic products you have in your home. Think aerosol sprays, cleaners, insect repellants, paints, varnishes, stored automotive products, adhesives, markers, vinyl floors, and even your upholstery. They make our lives easier, but they are the reason why concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors.
VOCs have been known to affect our health. Some who are exposed to VOCs can immediately experience headaches and dizziness, even eye and respiratory tract infection. Depending on the length and amount of exposure, it can even lead to kidney and liver damage and even cancer.
We can’t do without these modern conveniences where VOCs are present, so how can we protect our family? Studies by scientists at NASA (yes, the space agency), American Society for Horticultural Science and other respected institutions suggest that houseplants can be your best and most cost-effective option to clean the air of your home. They have great ability to absorb not just carbon dioxide, but a long list of VOCs. Here are some of the ones available at your favorite gardening store.
1 ALOE VERA
Aside from its reputation for its topical use to relieve sunburns, abrasions and as a skin conditioner, this sun-loving succulent is known to battle formaldehyde (found in some cosmetics, dish detergent, fabric softener and carpet cleaner) and benzene (found in some plastics, fabrics, pesticides and cigarette smoke).
2 SANSEVIERIA MIKADO
We love how this plant will thrive even when it’s practically ignored. Yet it continues to work hard for you, absorbing more than a hundred air pollutants including nitrogen monoxide and carbon monoxide.
Experts recommend this trailing plant for your garage because car exhaust is filled with formaldehyde. Just beware: this should be kept out of children's and pets' reach because it can be harmful when accidentally eaten. Plant them in baskets that you can hang on the wall or ceiling.
5 BOSTON PLANT (PAKO)
This common houseplant is known to be the best air humidifier. It ranks nine in NASA’s list of 50 air-purifying plants, and they also were found to be most efficient at removing formaldehyde.
6 ENGLISH IVY
This is a terrific plant for those with allergies and asthma. It’s known to remove carcinogens found in cigarette smoke, pesticides, and various VOCs from synthetic materials.
7 SPIDER PLANT
This powerful plant effectively absorbs xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries. As an added bonus, it’s considered a safe houseplant if you have pets in the house.
Nini D. Falcon is an interior designer by profession who also does production design and prop styling for editorial and commercial work. She is happily married to an IT guy, and their common passion is their two children.