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Not Just Decorations: Houseplants Improve Home Air Quality

Sep. 23, 2013|576 views
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A while back, I shared a post about houseplants, and how they can contribute to better indoor air quality. Today, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into this topic.


Houseplants are usually thought of as decorative elements in the home. They can brighten a dull entry, or add life to a neglected corner. But houseplants are also functional. They need the carbon dioxide we breathe, and in return release oxygen into the environment. And according to research by NASA scientists, they can significantly improve indoor air quality.


That’s because houseplants, and microorganisms in soil, help filter volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. They also help reduce “particulate matter,” which means fine particles floating in the air. This can be anything from dust to residue left over by smoking in the home. VOCs are released by all sorts of products, ranging from furniture and plastics, to paint and carpeting. I recommend homeowners strive to furnish and decorate the home using low-or no-VOC products, because these chemicals have been linked to conditions such as “sick building syndrome.” Sounds ominous, and it is, because it’s not the buildings that get sick in these situations. People do.


Avoiding VOC-laden products is one way to limit your exposure. Another is to raise houseplants, which help keep the air clean.


Mizukoshi A, Kumagai K, Yamamoto N, Noguchi M, Yoshiuchi K, Kumano H, et al. A novel methodology to evaluate health impacts caused by VOC exposures using real-time VOC and Holter monitors. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2010 Dec;7(12):4127-38. doi: 10.3390/ijerph7124127. Epub 2010 Nov 30. 


Pegas PN, Alves CA, Nunes T, Bate-Epey EF, Evtyugina M, Pio CA. Could houseplants improve indoor air quality in schools? J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2012;75(22-23):1371-80. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2012.721169.  


Tanaka-Kagawa T, Furuta M, Shibatsuji M, Jinno H, Nishimura T. [Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from large furniture]. Kokuritsu Iyakuhin Shokuhin Eisei Kenkyusho Hokoku. 2011;(129):76-85.


Tags:  health tips