Common indoor plants may provide a valuable weapon in the fight
against rising levels of indoor air pollution. Those plants in your office
or home are not only decorative, but NASA scientists are finding them to be
surprisingly useful in absorbing potentially harmful gases and cleaning the
air inside modern buildings.
NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) have
announced the findings of a 2-year study that suggest a sophisticated
pollution-absorbing device: the common indoor plant may provide a natural
way of helping combat "SICK BUILDING SYNDROME".
Research into the use of biological processes as a means of solving
environmental problems, both on Earth and in space habitats, has been
carried out for many years by Dr. Bill Wolverton, formerly a senior research
scientist at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Based on preliminary evaluations of the use of common indoor plants
for indoor air purification and revitalization, ALCA joined NASA to fund a
study using about a dozen popular varieties of ornamental plants to
determine their effectiveness in removing several key pollutants associated
with indoor air pollution. NASA research on indoor plants has found that
living plants are so efficient at absorbing contaminants in the air that
some will be launched into space as part of the biological life support
system aboard future orbiting space stations.
While more research is needed, Wolverton says the study has shown that
common indoor landscaping plants can remove certain pollutants from the
indoor environment. "We feel that future results will provide an even
stronger argument that common indoor landscaping plants can be a very
effective part of a system used to provide pollution free homes and work
places, " he concludes.
Each plant type was placed in sealed, Plexiglas chambers in which
chemicals were injected. Philodendron, spider plant and the golden pothos
were labeled the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules.
Flowering plants such as gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were rated
superior in removing benzene from the chamber atmosphere. Other good
performers are Dracaena Massangeana, Spathiphyllum, and Golden Pothos.
"Plants take substances out of the air through the tiny openings in their
leaves," Wolverton said. "But research in our laboratories has determined
that plant leaves, roots and soil bacteria are all important in removing
trace levels of toxic vapors".
"Combining nature with technology can increase the effectiveness of
plants in removing air pollutants," he said. "A living air cleaner is
created by combining activated carbon and a fan with a potted plant. The
roots of the plant grow right in the carbon and slowly degrade the chemicals
absorbed there," Wolverton explains.
NASA research has consistently shown that living, green and flowering
plants can remove several toxic chemicals from the air in building
interiors. You can use plants in your home or office to improve the quality
of the air to make it a more pleasant place to live and work - where people
feel better, perform better, any enjoy life more.
TOP 10 plants most effective in removing:
formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air.
Common Name Scientific Name
Bamboo Palm Chamaedorea Seifritzii
Chinese Evergreen Aglaonema Modestum
English Ivy Hedera Helix
Gerbera Daisy Gerbera Jamesonii
Janet Craig Dracaena "Janet Craig"
Marginata Dracaena Marginata
Mass cane/Corn Plant Dracaena Massangeana
Mother-in-Law's Tongue Sansevieria Laurentii
Pot Mum Chrysantheium morifolium
Peace Lily Spathiphyllum "Mauna Loa"
Warneckii Dracaena "Warneckii"
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a commercial product found in a wide
variety of industrial uses. Over 90 percent of the TCE produced is used in
the metal degreasing and dry cleaning industries. In addition, it is used in
printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, and adhesives. In 1975 the
National Cancer Institute reported that an unusually high incidence of
hepatocellular carcinomas was observed in mice given TCE by gastric
intubation and now considers this chemical a potent liver carcinogen.
Benzene is a very commonly used solvent and is also present in many
common items including gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, and rubber.
In addition it is used in the manufacture of detergents, explosives,
pharmaceuticals, and dyes.
Benzene has long been known to irritate the skin and eyes. In
addition, it has been shown to be mutagenic to bacterial cell culture and
has shown embryotoxic activity and carcinogenicity in some tests. Evidence
also exists that benzene may be a contributing factor in chromosomal
aberrations and leukemia in humans. Repeated skin contact with benzene will
cause drying, inflammation, blistering and dermatitis. Acute inhalation of
high levels of benzene has been reported to cause dizziness, weakness,
euphoria, headache, nausea, blurred vision, respiratory diseases, tremors,
irregular heartbeat, liver and kidney damage, paralysis and unconsciousness.
In anima tests inhalation of benzene led to cataract formation and diseases
of the blood and lymphatic systems. Chronic exposure to even relatively low
levels causes headaches, loss of appetite, drowsiness, nervousness,
psychological disturbances and diseases of the blood system, including
anemia and bone marrow diseases.
Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous chemical found in virtually all indoor
environments. The major sources which have been reported and publicized
include urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) and particle board or
pressed wood products used in manufacturing of the office furniture bought
today. It is used in consumer paper products which have been treated with UF
resins, including grocery bags, waxed papers, facial tissues and paper
towels. Many common household cleaning agents contain formaldehyde. UF
resins are used as stiffeners, wrinkle resisters, water repellents, fire
retardants and adhesive binders in floor coverings, carpet backings and
permanent-press clothes. Other sources of formaldehyde include heating and
cooking fuels like natural gas, kerosene, and cigarette smoke.
Formaldehyde irritates the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and
throat. It is also a highly reactive chemical which combines with protein
and can cause allergic contact dermatitis. The most widely reported symptoms
from exposure to high levels of this chemical include irritation of the eyes
and headaches. Until recently, the most serious of the diseases attributed
to formaldehyde exposure was asthma. However, the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has recently conducted research which has caused formaldehyde
to be strongly suspected of causing a rare type of throat cancer in
long-term occupants of mobile homes.