Purify Indoor Air With Plants

 Common houseplants such as aloe vera, philodendron, spider plant, ficus, English ivy, peace lily, and schefflera are a pleasing way to purify the air. They remove a variety of pollutants, including benzene, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde from the air. Keep plants dusted, as this increases their effectiveness.



What Is It?

Benzene, also known as benzol, is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor. Benzene evaporates into air very quickly and dissolves slightly in water.


Everyone is exposed to a small amount of benzene every day. You are exposed to benzene in the outdoor environment, in the workplace, and in the home. Exposure mainly occurs through breathing air that contains benzene. The major sources of benzene exposure are tobacco smoke, automobile service stations, exhaust from motor vehicles, and industrial emissions. Vapors from products that contain benzene, such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents, can also be a source of exposure.

Health Effects

Benzene causes problems in the blood. People who breath benzene for long periods may experience harmful effects in the tissues that form blood cells, especially the bone marrow. These effects can disrupt normal blood production and cause a decrease in important blood components. A decrease in red blood cells can lead to anemia. Reduction in other components in the blood can cause excessive bleeding. Excessive exposure to benzene can be harmful to the immune system, increasing the chance for infection and lowing the body’s defense against cancer. Long term exposure can cause cancer of the blood-forming organs. This condition is called leukemia. Exposure to benzene is harmful to the reproductive organs. It will cause irregular periods and decrease the size of the ovaries. In animals, benzene has harmful effects on the developing fetus. These effects include low birth weight, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage.

Carbon Monoxide

What Is It?

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas.


Carbon monoxide is often formed in the process of incomplete combustion or organic substance, including fuels. In general, it is produced when any material burns, but more is produced when there isn’t enough oxygen for efficient burning. Common sources in the home include fuel-burning devices such as furnaces, gas or kerosene space heaters, boilers, gas cooking stoves, water heaters, clothes dryers, fireplaces, charcoal grills, wood stoves, lawn mowers, power generators, camp stoves, motor vehicles, boats and some power tools with internal combustion engines. Smoking and second-hand smoke are other common sources.

Health Effects

It is dangerous because it interferes with normal oxygen uptake for humans and other living organisms needing oxygen to live. The health effects of breathing CO depend on the concentration of CO in the air, the duration of exposure, and the health status of the exposed person. For most people, low concentrations include mild headache and breathlessness with moderate exercise. Continued exposure can lead to flu-like symptoms including a more severe headache, dizziness, tiredness, and nausea that may progress to confusion, irritability, and impaired judgment, memory and coordination. CO is called the silent killer because if the early signs are ignored, a person may lose consciousness and be unable to escape the danger. Under certain conditions, lethal concentrations have occurred within 10 minutes. Breathing low concentrations may not result in obvious symptoms but long-term exposure can still adversely affect health.


What Is It?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas. It has a pungent, distinct odor and may cause a burning sensation to the eyes, nose, and lungs at high concentrations.


Formaldehyde is naturally produced in very small amounts in our bodies as a part of our normal, everyday metabolism and causes us no harm. It can also be found in the air that we breathe at home and at work, in the food we eat, and in some products that we put on our skin. A major source of formaldehyde that we breathe everyday is found in smog in the lower atmosphere. Automobile exhaust from cars without catalytic converters or those using oxygenated gasoline also contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is usually found in the air. Formaldehyde levels are also higher indoors than outdoors. At home, formaldehyde is produced by cigarettes and other tobacco products, gas cookers, and open fireplaces. It is also used as a preservative in some foods, such as some types of Italian cheeses, dried foods, and fish. Formaldehyde is found in many products used every day around the house, such as antiseptics, medicines, cosmetics, dish-washing liquids, fabric softeners, shoe-care agents, carpet cleaners, glues and adhesives, lacquers, paper, plastics, and some types of wood products. Some people are exposed to higher levels of formaldehyde if they live in a new mobile home, as formaldehyde is given off as a gas from the manufactured wood products used in these homes and the circulation is poor in these types of homes. Formaldehyde is released to the air from many home products and you may breath in formaldehyde while using these products. Latex paint, fingernail hardener, and fingernail polish release a large amount of formaldehyde to the air. Plywood and particle board, as well as furniture and cabinets made from them, fiberglass products, new carpets, decorative laminates, and some permanent press fabrics give off a moderate amount of formaldehyde. Some paper products, such as grocery bags and paper towels, give off small amounts of formaldehyde. Because these products contain formaldehyde, you may also be exposed on the skin by touching or coming in direct contact with them. You may also breath formaldehyde if you use unvented gas or kerosene heaters indoors or if you or someone else smokes a cigar, cigarette, or pipe indoors. Doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, pathologists, embalmers, workers in the clothing industry or in furniture factories, and teachers and students who handle preserved specimens in laboratories also might be exposed to higher amounts of formaldehyde. Some permanent press fabrics emit formaldehyde.

Health Effects

Formaldehyde can enter your body after you breath it in, drink or eat it, or when it comes in contact with your skin. Formaldehyde is quickly absorbed from the nose and the upper part of your lungs. When formaldehyde is eaten and drunk, it is also very quickly absorbed. Very small amounts are probably absorbed from formaldehyde that comes in contact with your skin. Formaldehyde is irritating to tissues when it comes into direct contact with them. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of formaldehyde than others. The most common symptoms include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, along with increased tearing. It is very likely that breathing formaldehyde will result in nose and eye irritation (burning feeling, itchy, tearing, and sore throat). Severe pain, vomiting, coma, and possible death can occur after drinking large amounts of formaldehyde. Skin can become irritated if it comes into contact with a strong solution of formaldehyde. Several studies of laboratory rats exposed for life to high amounts of formaldehyde in air found that the rats developed nose cancer. Some studies of humans exposed to lower amounts of formaldehyde in workplace air found cases of cancer of the nose and throat (nasopharyngeal cancer). The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that formaldehyde is a probably human carcinogen based on limited evidence in humans and sufficient evidence in laboratory animals.


Some other plants ideal for the home and office: (especially good for filtering air pollution and cleaning the air)

Areca palm

Arrowhead vine

Boston fern


Dwarf date palm

Golden pathos

Striped dracaenea


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