Air Filtering Plant Installation

Indoor air pollution is a bigger deal than people realize, especially in modern tightly-sealed homes and apartments. Very little air is exchanged into or out of my apartment if I don’t open the windows (and, in the winter when it’s around 35°, they’re not opened often.) A tightly sealed building with little air exchange wouldn’t have been a big deal a hundred years ago, but modern home goods frequently release volatile organic chemicals into the air during use or even at rest – carpets, plastics, electronic devices, all can release toxic chemicals benzene and derivatives, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and others. Nothing you want to have in high concentrations in your indoor air.

The problem of removing volatile organic chemicals from indoor air was tackled in a somewhat unusual place: a 1989 NASA study about cleaning the air on space stations. It turns out that certain common houseplants are extremely effective at removing these chemicals from the air and sequestering them. My apartment has a noticeable chemical odor occasionally, a combination of pair of area rugs made of synthetic fibers, and old electronics that were constructed with more chemicals than modern ones. To ensure I’m not poisoning myself, I run a HEPA filter with an activated carbon pre-filter to remove particulate matter, and made an indoor installation of air filtering plants to help the activated carbon more effectively filter VOCs from the air.

My apartment is about 700 square feet; I’m using five medium to large houseplants and several smaller ones. Certain orchids are effective, in addition to being attractive to look at:

So is the spider plant, above, and below the snake plant and peace lily:

and the Chinese Evergreen:

These plants have helped to noticeably reduce the chemical odor in my apartment that tends to accumulate when it’s left sitting for the day. I’m quite happy with the results. Not to mention, having plants around makes the place look better and adds a nice splash of color and life to a room that would otherwise be full of artificial objects.

From the NASA study (and reprinted on the TreeHugger article) the complete list of plants that are good for air filtration:

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