Let’s face it: When most people think of plants, they often think of allergies. As a result, many people choose to keep plants outside to reduce the likelihood of suffering from the sneezing, itching, and coughing that may occur in the presence of certain plants. However, a study published by NASA revealed that some common household plants can actually improve indoor air quality.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), levels of pollutants inside the home are often two to five times higher than outdoor pollutant levels. You’re probably thinking, “How is that possible? I clean my floors and counter tops regularly.” Well, don’t be too hard on yourself because these excessive levels aren’t necessarily the result of poor housekeeping.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Many contemporary homes are designed with energy efficiency in mind, and as a result they’re tightly sealed. While this is great for regulating your home’s temperature and keeping energy costs low, it also traps volatile organic compounds (VOCs) inside. These chemicals (like formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene) are commonly found in pressed wood, furniture, paints, varnishes, and many cleaning products. Exposure can result in headaches, nausea, allergic skin reactions, nose and throat irritation, and even more severe reactions like central nervous system damage.
Since avoiding VOCs altogether is unlikely, household plants are an inexpensive and attractive option for reducing your exposures to them. Houseplants are a better choice for removing VOCs from indoor air because they’re equipped to survive in tropical areas with low sunlight, which means that they have the potential to absorb gases more efficiently to aid photosynthesis. This even includes gases like formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, and more.
If you’re interested in checking for VOCs like formaldehyde in your home, browse our Testing Kits page.
Below is a list of the 15 NASA-recommended houseplants. All of the plants can be easily purchased at your local nursery.
1. Heartleaf philodendron – top right photo
2. Elephant ear philodendron
3. Cornstalk dracaena
4. English ivy
5. Spider plant
6. Janet Craig dracaena
7. Warneck dracaena
8. Weeping fig
9. Golden pothos
10. Peace lily – bottom right photo
11. Selloum philodendron
12. Chinese evergreen
13. Bamboo or reed palm
14. Snake plant
15. Red-edged dracaena
Have you added any combination of these plants to your indoor environment? Tell us about your experience in the Comments section.