Did you know that the air inside your home is up to 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside? Because we spent 90% of our time inside, the EPA considers indoor air pollution a top environmental risk to public health.
Indoor Air Quality
Home air quality is not something most people care or think about — but you should. In fact, according to a Consumer Reports survey, Is Poor Indoor Air Quality Making You Sick, only 9% of Americans actually consider air in their homes as a threat to their health, and 70% are not concerned at all.
Allergies, asthma, heart problems and even lung cancer have been linked to poor air quality. The EPA also reports that people who work from home and stay-at-home moms have a 54% higher death rate from cancer than those who work outside the home. Surprising still, the quality of air in offices and schools is often far worse.
Most of the air pollutants come from old furniture, smoking tobacco products, household cleaners, pesticides, building materials, plastics, pets, candles, aerosols, air fresheners and incense sticks.
Can Plants Help?
When conducting a plant study to clean the air in the space station, NASA found that in addition to absorbing CO2 and generating oxygen, some species of plants were especially good at absorbing toxic and poisonous chemicals from the air like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. You can find some of these must-have air filtering plants in their Clean Air Study. Research on air filtering plants has continued, with studies now focusing on the removal of chemicals by specialized plants, which can be found in B.C. Woverton’s book How to Grow Fresh Air (affiliate).
NASA’s study recommends at least 1 plant for every 100 square feet. Under these guidelines, the average 3 bedroom home (2,000 square feet under air) requires over 20 plants to clean the air!
English Ivy and Peace Lily are great at removing poisonous chemicals from the air but can be toxic to cats and dogs. I have 2 dogs at home so it was especially important for me to select greenery that is both non-toxic, and kid-friendly. The plants, trees, and ferns below are both safe for children and pets.
Marifer’s Top 10 Pet Friendly Air Filtering Plants
- Butterfly Palm. Absorbs formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. In addition, an average butterfly palm (5 feet) in height will transpire 1 liter of water every 24 hours, making it a filter and a humidifier
- Spider Plant. Absorbs formaldehyde, styrene, carbon monoxide, xylene and toluene. It decomposes benzene and Nicotine in tobaccos. Spider plants are called green filters. Very resilient
- Bamboo Palm. Absorbs formaldehyde, xylene and toluene
- Boston Fern. Absorbs formaldehyde, xylene and toluene
- Broadleaf Lady Palm. Absorbs formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and ammonia. Very resilient
- Barberton Daisy. Absorbs trichloroethylene
- Maidenhair Fern. Absorbs formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. Most effective at eliminating formaldehyde from the air
- Rubber Tree. Absorbs formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. They also collect particles reducing dust
- Kimberley Queen Fern. Absorbs formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. Very resilient
- Cacti. Absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. Eliminates bacteria and reduces radiation. Very resilient
With so many associated illnesses, indoor air pollution is a serious environmental threat. Small lifestyle changes, such as limiting the use of air fresheners and toxic paraffin candles, switching to “green” or homemade cleaning supplies, and adding air filtering plants, can significantly improve air quality. With these simple steps, you can literally transform — almost overnight — the air your family breathes into a safe and healthy environment.
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