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Indoor House Plants - Home Health And Indoor Air Quality

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 25 commentsJay Markanich • February 26 2015 03:21AM

Comments

Yes, plants can help - not only for indoor air quality, but also, they have a soothing impact on us as they just look nice and remind us of nature.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 3 years ago

I buy fresh flowers for my wife nearly every week Debbie.  But not for air quality.  There, say aww...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Hi Jay, that is very interesting research. So, basically everything will cause me to get sick and die.... Just kidding. I used to love to have house plants, but I live in a small house now and honestly, I have little to no room. My cats are also way to fond of house plants. Maybe someday I will again have houseplants, who knows! 

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 3 years ago

Ooh plants - unfortunately I have less than a green thumb, more on the brown side I think and plants don't last very long with me - I do enjoy them though - thanks for sharing

Posted by Jennifer Mackay, Your Bay County Florida Realtor 850.774.6582 (Counts Real Estate Group, Inc.) over 3 years ago

Hang them from the ceiling Andrea!

And THAT is your opportunity to learn Jennifer!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Shucks...guess my silk collection won't do the trick...guess I will have to work on my thumb color !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 3 years ago

You thumb(s) is(are) fine S&D!  I learned to care for plants from my grandmother.  And reading.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Indoor plants and outdoor flowers are not my forte. But give me a garden of vegetables and fruit trees and I'll give you a bounty; go figure.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 3 years ago

Jay, LOL... great idea however.... plaster walls and plaster ceilings. Too much work for me! Good thing my house is not air tight... I might survive!

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 3 years ago

I used to have a couple of dozen but scaled down over the last few years. Now I only have half a dozen but with spring coming I may add a few more. Glad to know that they are good for the household.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) over 3 years ago

I do have a lot of plants, Jay, but they've generally been in my house to bring a dash of spring during the winter. Maybe they've been making me feel good for another reason too.

Posted by Steve Kantor, Best Agent Business - Virtual Assistance (BEST AGENT BUSINESS) over 3 years ago

Raymond - go forth, young man, and add to your list of virtuous of fortes!

Like the little train Andrea, just think you can.

Debbie - do what you feel makes you happiest!

Or resonS Steve!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay, I've got the green thumb in our house but unfortunately my bride insists on "helping" although she already knows she is the angel of death to all plants. The plants in my office do well however.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Bob Timm, Project Coordinator for Tivoli Homes (Tivoli Custom Homes) over 3 years ago

Jay, I would need to add a whole lot of plants to improve my indoor air quality! We have a few Philodendrons and a couple of Jade plants we really like. Interesting post.

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 3 years ago

Bob - teach her how to do it!

Tom - they are probably improving it now.  If you need more, add more!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

I know the wife has some plants in the house but I do not have a clue on their names.  She likes them but when she gets up today I'll ask

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 3 years ago

Check around James!  Expand your garden and maybe improve your indoor air too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Spider Plants, and Philodendrons are easy to grow, pretty much just water them and make sure they get a little light. Even I, black thumb Fred, have them in my house! They not only give off oxygen, they create atmosphere!

 

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 3 years ago

Lots of bennies Fred.  Not bennies in the capsule sense.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Benny Hill?

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 3 years ago

THAT was a funny guy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Plants in the house can be interesting.  Love them.  However, if your plants go crazy, and bloom all year long, it can be an indication of too much C02.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 3 years ago

I guess that depends on how much hot air is in the house Charlie.  In our house that would be quite a bit, but generated by the testosterone side of the indoor community.

The Christmas Cactus, shown in the second photo on the right side, blooms regularly at Thanksgiving every year!  Announces the coming of Christmas.  Hence the name.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Indoor house plants surely add to the ambiance.  However, they usually require more light than is available in many rooms, hence the dead leaves.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 3 years ago

We have plants at certain windows based on their light needs Lenn.  Those with more passive light needs are on the north side.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

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