Greener Office: Cleaner Air


Graymatter’s Guide To Greener Business Practices

Part Two

The Air You Breathe

NASA scientists prove that house plants can remove air pollution from indoor environments.

When I first heard about NASA sending plants into space, I imagined ivy growing long tendrils in all directions like weightless spiders.  Since then, research in the pollution fighting properties of plants has been carried out by several scientists including Dr. Bill Wolverton, formerly a senior research scientist at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, Bay St. Louis, Miss.

While more research is needed, studies show that houseplants help eliminate certain toxins, counteract out-gassing and contribute to balanced internal humidity.   They even may provide a natural way of helping combat “Sick Building Syndrome”.

Philodendron, spider plant and the golden pothos were labeled the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules.  Flowering plants such as gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were rated superior in removing benzene from the chamber atmosphere. Other good performers are Dracaena Massangeana, Spathiphyllum, and Golden Pothos.

A list of the best performing plants include:

1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’, heartleaf philodendron
2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’, cornstalk dracaena
4. Hedera helix, English ivy
5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’, Janet Craig dracaena
7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’, Warneck dracaena
8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos
10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’, peace lily
11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron
12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen
13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm
14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant
15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena

According to Wolverton’s research, in addition to absorbing substances through tiny openings in their leaves, indoor plants also remove trace levels of toxic vapors through their roots and soil bacteria.

For a home or office of under 2,000 square feet, the study recommends using a variety of at least fifteen of these common houseplants to help improve air quality. They also recommend that the plants be grown in six inch containers or larger.

Although many plants like light, they do not all have to be placed near windows to thrive.  Many indoor plants originated in the dense shade of tropical forests so they have a high rate of photosynthesis.   This makes them ideal for the home or office.  Ventilated areas appear to reduce a plants effect on indoor air pollution, so be sure to keep them out of a draft.

Additional Information:

PDF files of the NASA studies related to plants and air quality: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/ssctrs.ssc.nasa.gov/foliage_air/foliage_air.pdf

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/ssctrs.ssc.nasa.gov/journal_mas/journal_mas.pdf

http://www.ssc.nasa.gov/environmental/docforms/water_research/water_research.html