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Clearing the Air with Houseplants
“This is an area that’s been largely ignored, and the health issues are potentially astronomical,” says University of Georgia horticulturist Stanley Kays. “We spend as much as 90 percent of our time indoors breathing indoor air that often contains a diverse range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are toxic.”
House plants can absorb those VOCs. To determine the best air-purifying houseplants, researchers at the University of Georgia evaluated 32 plant species. Of those tested, purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternata) best removed VOCs from the air.
Poor indoor air quality can result in "new house syndrome" and "sick building syndrome" that can cause a diverse cross-section of ailments, including allergies, asthma,fatigue and headaches.
Before testing the plants, the researchers conducted tests for VOCs in three older, upper middle-class homes in Athens, Georgia. Older homes are often more drafty than newer homes, which are built tighter to better insulate them.
“The results really shocked me,” Kays said. “All three homes had surprisingly high levels of organic compounds in their air. These were older homes. So if the levels are high there, then it’s probably widespread in newer homes.”
To reduce the VOC levels in your home, the researchers recommend adding a cross-section of plants, one per 100 square feet of living space. Using active charcoal filters in heating and air conditioning systems helps, too.
University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Indoor Gardening the Organic Way
Home and Garden Center
Charcoal Air Filterl