By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove
Studies show we spend close to 92 percent of our day indoors. What’s more, certain
air pollutants are 100 times more concentrated in our homes than they are outside.
This means the quality of the indoor air we breathe is important for our overall
Indoor air pollution occurs when certain pollutants from particles and gases
contaminate the air of indoor areas. These toxic particles and gases, called volatile
organic compounds (VOC), are released from the synthetic materials in our daily
spaces, including carpets, vinyl floors, cleaning products, air fresheners, paint,
upholstery fabrics and more. Two of the most common indoor VOC examples are
benzene, found in some plastics, fabrics, pesticides and cigarette smoke, and
formaldehyde found in some cosmetics, dish detergent, fabric softener and carpet
Walking into a home or office building is not likely to make you sick immediately
but, over time, your body can absorb potentially toxic substances in the air.
Exposure to indoor air pollution can resemble symptoms similar to a cold or
seasonal allergies, including headache, scratchy throat, dizziness, fatigue, runny
nose and itchy watery eyes. These symptoms usually disappear within a couple
hours after leaving the polluted environment.
While we are exposed to indoor air pollution daily, the good news is you don’t need
to invest in expensive air filtration and ventilation systems. There is another very
practical and affordable way to clean the air indoors: houseplants.
Studies conducted at the University of Georgia, Pennsylvania State University and
NASA have all demonstrated that potted plants in the home can absorb harmful
chemicals through their leaves and roots. In a study with the Associated Landscape
Contractors of America, NASA researchers discovered that indoor plants were able
to remove up to 87 percent of air toxins within 24 hours.
There are other benefits to houseplants, as well. Researchers at The Royal College of
Agriculture found students were more attentive and more likely to return to class if
there were plants in the lecture halls. The Agricultural University of Norway found
potted plants reduced stress in office workers and lowered the number of sick days
taken. Additionally, they found plants in the workplace decreased fatigue and
Experts recommend one plant (6 to 8 inches in diameter) for every 100 square feet.
In office buildings, they recommend one large plant for every two employees. While
that may sound like an excessive number of plants for a large house or building,
keep in mind having some plants is better than having none at all. When adding
plants to your home or office, be sure to purchase them in clay pots, as plastic pots
can release VOCs.
Here are five of the most beneficial houseplants for improving indoor air quality:
This tropical plant breaks down and neutralizes toxic gases like benzene,
formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. This is a great choice to add to your office, as
some studies show they absorb electromagnetic radiation from digital devices. They
acclimate to a variety of indoor environments, do not require much light, and droop
when water is needed.
A common outside climbing plant, this ivy may reduce the amount of mold in the air
inside your home, as well as absorb toxins from cigarette smoke. It is said to be
fantastic for asthma and allergies. It is easy to grow and care for but can he harmful
if eaten, so it is wise to keep the plant away from pets and children.
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant
This plant is easy to care for and grows well with little maintenance. It increases the
oxygen supply in the room, removes benzene, nitric oxide and formaldehyde. Do not
overwater this plant, as it will rot if the soil is moist for too long. This plant may also
be toxic when ingested, so take care if you have pets and children.
Bamboo, Reed or Lady Palm
This plant thrives in low light and easily tolerates the warm and cool air conditions
of the home environment. It readily absorbs out-gassing from furniture, so if you
have purchased a new chair or couch you may want to decorate with this palm. It
can grow up to 6 feet tall and add elegance to any room.
Aloe is well known for its healing properties and is especially soothing for burns.
However, it is also known to remove formaldehyde from the air. Aloe is a smart
choice for a sunny kitchen window.
Adding just a few potted plants can go a long way toward improving your indoor air
quality and reducing health risks.
Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove
draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food
allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and
wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake
Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.