Take something as innocuous as indoor house plants - home health and indoor air quality - and you will get boisterous arguments on both sides!
It's healthy to have indoor plants! It's not healthy to have indoor plants!
It's inarguable that house plants remove CO2 from the air and replace it with oxygen! Who wouldn't want that?
More oxygen has health benefits - fewer headaches and eye irritation, more energy, fewer respiratory problems, reduced stress, and general improvement to the house air (with the vaunted word - phytoremediation).
But there are some plants that improve the air quality better than others.
Indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air when you walk outside your house! There are many things indoors that continuously contribute bad things, including volatile air compounds - called VOCs - such as cabinetry, carpeting, clothing, adhesives, paints, and even the tap water! And you are breathing it all when you are indoors! For sure you are indoors more than outdoors. So the question remains:
CAN INDOOR AIR QUALITY BE IMPROVED?
NASA did a study (criticized because it was performed in a closed environment) to see if house plants would improve the air in the space station. They tested specifically to see if house plants would remove VOCs from the air, and if so, which might be better than others.
The toxins they tested for removal:
- toulene - found in adhesives, rubber gloves, leather clothing, disinfectants, printing inks - which in low doses affects such things as sleeplessness, irritability, headaches and memory loss, among other things.
- benzene - found in cleaning products, outside air fumes coming inside, like from the garage and gasoline, indoor coatings, paints, plastics, and more. Benzene causes respiratory diseases, general weakness, heart and kidney damage, and more.
- tricholoroethylene (TCE) - found in inks, lacquers and varnishes on furniture, and adhesives. It's a potential liver carcinogen.
- formaldehyde - found all over the indoor environment in pressed woods, particleboard, paper grocery bags, paper towels, facial tissues, adhesives, carpet pads and backings, and cigarette smoke, to name a few things. It causes watery eyes and wheezing, and classified as a carcinogen.
Was that scary? When studies make points they try to make aggressive points! None of those things are found in huge quantities indoors, but they are all over the place indoors!
Green, leafy plants! Including Golden Pothos (pictured to the right in my reading room), Spider Plants, and Philodendrons are especially good at removing formaldehyde. They are supremely easy to grow. Some require little or diffused light.
Peace Lily, Areca Palm, climbing vines like English Ivy, and Boston Fern are good at removing VOCs. They remove these VOCs through holes in their leaves, but also with their root systems and bacteria in the soil.
The NASA study revealed that having 15-18 house plants in an 1800 square foot house would help toward air quality. A larger house, obviously, could use more.
Jade plants, like on the left, are very easy to grow. They also purify the air and add lots of oxygen.
The plant on the left I found in the trash can at the garden center and brought it home for free.
The Jade plant in the center was grown from a single clipping.
Asking two horticulturalists about bacteria in the soil and its affect on house air I was told it is negligible to none. And asking about plant respiration and its increase in indoor humidity I was told that it is negligible to none. Making a pot of soup adds a lot more humidity.
You will find a lot of opposite information and arguments when you research this. My rule of thumb: look at who is paying for the study! And the answers will follow. Yes, you can find studies showing that indoor house plants will kill you. I've had them in my house my entire adult life - I'm fine.
My recommendation: house plants are good! They add oxygen to the indoor air! Why not have one in every room? It seems that the more study I do the more I conclude that the benefits and positives far, far, far exceed the negatives. Find some that are easy to grow, require the kind(s) of light your house provides, and go for it. And saying you don't have a green thumb is silliness - learn how to care for the plant you purchase and begin there!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560