Houseplants breathe. They take carbon dioxide out of the air and return oxygen and water vapor back into it. Along with the carbon dioxide, house plants vacuum away far more threatening substances.
Indoor pollutants are found in most environments–both homes and offices. They are responsible for what is sometimes called “sick building syndrome.” Microorganisms living in potting soil use these toxins as food, and plant roots absorb their waste process. The process works around the clock to purify the air we breathe.
What are these indoor pollutants?
- Formaldehyde: Found in particleboard, plywood, foam insulation, grocery bags, room deoderizers, waxed paper, facial tissues, paper towels, permanent press fabrics.
- Benzene: Present in gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, rubber; also used to manufacture detergents, pharmaceuticals and dyes.
- Trichlorethylene (TCE): Used in drycleaning but also found in printing inks, paints, varnishes and adhesives.
These substances are no joke. They can irritate eyes, nose and throat. Some can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, irregular heartbeat, liver and kidney damage, and even paralysis. Prolonged exposure can cause permanent short-term memory loss and decreased muscle control. They are potential carcinogens.
Luckily for us, common houseplants can vacuum these toxic substances out of the air we breathe. If you have 8-foot ceilings, two to three plants in 6” or 8” pots will clean 100 square feet of space. Tall plants can cut the number needed in half.
Office Plants Are Keeping You Healthy
Did you know that you are more likely to develop a cold or catch the flu when the humidity in your home or office is too low? You are also more vulnerable to disease and illness if the humidity is too high. The answer to these problems will probably surprise you…interior plants actually stabilize the humidity, making you and the environment healthier.
Houseplants not only beautify buildings; they naturally purify the indoor air.
A silent problem, indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health threats in America and the main culprit in the rising incidence of asthma over the last decade, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Materials in the buildings themselves are the source of much of this pollution. Plywood, carpeting, paint, upholstery, wallpaper, ceiling tiles, and hundreds of other synthetic products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs)–such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene–into the air. Indoor levels of many chemical pollutants are 25 to over 100 times higher than outdoor levels.
Buildup of VOCs, a problem common to newer buildings with limited fresh-air ventilation, can be extremely irritating to people. Symptoms of “sick building syndrome,” as it is called, include allergies; fatigue; headaches; respiratory problems; and eye, nose, and throat irritations.
By releasing water vapor through their leaves, plants create convection currents in the air that draw VOCs down to the soil where microorganisms biodegrade them. Plants also absorb these airborne chemicals, breaking down some themselves while transporting others to the roots and surrounding soil for the action of the microorganisms. Cleaner, filtered air results.
During photosynthesis, houseplants take in carbon dioxide, which people exhale when they breathe, and then release oxygen back into the atmosphere. American and Russian studies have shown that astronauts consume about 2.0 pounds of oxygen each day while creating about 2.4 pounds of carbon dioxide. So houseplants also help to replenish indoor air with oxygen.