Did you know that several common houseplants filter indoor airborne pollutants and help improve indoor air quality? A study by NASA in 1989 demonstrated that many houseplants reduce levels of cancer-causing organic chemicals commonly found in indoor air.
Americans spend almost 90 percent of their time indoors, where concentrations of pollutants can become much higher than outdoors. Poor air quality can aggravate occurrences of asthma and allergies for sensitive individuals. Poor air quality may also have longer-term health effects depending on the pollutant and level of exposure. There are several ways to improve your indoor air quality such as using houseplants to filter pollutants, increasing ventilation to refresh air and installing high-quality air purifiers and filters to remove airborne particulates.
What Affects Indoor Air Quality?
There are several factors that impact indoor air quality. Many common household products such as textiles, cleaning supplies, plywood, rugs, pesticides and even craft supplies like glue contain chemicals that are released into the air. Some areas of the United States contain high levels of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that enters buildings through cracks in the building’s shell. Cooking with gas or using combustion sources for heating like wood-burning stoves or kerosene also affects the indoor air.
Houseplants Reduce Indoor Air Pollutants
Houseplants are not only lovely additions to indoor décor, they remove organic chemicals from indoor air. NASA’s study demonstrated that houseplants reduce levels of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, common household pollutants and known carcinogens. Subsequent studies have identified other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that plants remove from the air. Plants most effective in reducing levels of airborne toxins include:
- Chrysanthemum: benzene, in glue, paint, plastics and detergent
- Dracaena (several varieties): xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, in varnish and gasoline
- English ivy: benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, also effective against mold growth
- Peace lily: alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde, in inks, paints, plastics and rubber
- Philodendron: formaldehyde, in cleaning products, pressed wood, carpets, cigarette smoke and kerosene
- Pothos ivy: ozone and formaldehyde
- Rubber plant: formaldehyde
- Weeping fig: formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene, in adhesives and solvents
Although plants remove some airborne toxins, they do not remove other pollutants like bacteria, animal dander or pollen.
Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, maintaining adequate ventilation is the best way to clean indoor air. Newer, air-tight houses conserve energy but reduce the exchange rate between indoor and outdoor air. Ventilation brings in fresh air and exhausts stale air.
Most heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems include air exchangers that refresh the air. All air conditioners have air filters to capture airborne dust and debris. Not all filters are alike, however. Some capture only particles that are larger than 3 microns (µ) like hair, pollen and dust mites, while others capture particles as small as .3µ like that from tobacco smoke and cooking oil.
Filtration Devices to Purify Indoor Air
Air purifiers, cleaners and filters are available as either stand-alone units or as units designed to work with your HVAC system. A high-quality air filter will remove airborne pollutants including mold, bacteria, dust and VOCs. Several types of filters are on the market, so it is important to select one that works with your system and that removes the pollutants you want. There is a correlation between effectiveness in capturing airborne particles and impeding air flow. Filters designed to capture smaller particulates restrict air flow and must be cleaned more frequently to allow air circulation through the system.
Both high efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA filters, and Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value filters, or MERV- rated filters, capture small particles that contribute to indoor air pollution. A true HEPA filter must remove 99.7 percent of particles down to .3µ. If you are considering upgrading the filter on your forced-air system, a HEPA filter may not be compatible with your HVAC system. According to the EPA, MERV filters rated between 7 and 13 are as effective as HEPA filters in controlling indoor airborne pollutants.
Logan Heating and Air Conditioning
At Logan Heating and Air Conditioning, our NATE-trained technicians can answer questions about how to improve your indoor air. We offer solutions that ensure that you breathe clean air. Products range from filters and air cleaners compatible with your furnace, heat pump or air conditioner to room air purifiers and humidifiers. We also look at ways to properly vent appliances, kitchens and bathrooms without sacrificing energy efficiency.
We have served the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina for more than 60 years. We go to extra efforts to ensure that our customers are satisfied. To find out more about how we can help you improve your indoor environment, feel free to call us for a live chat with one of our representatives. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Written by Mark Hollingsworth