We know that we depend on plants for the air we breathe. They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen; we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. It’s a perfect symbiotic relationship.
Plants do even more than that by filtering the toxins out of the air that they breathe in so they can emit cleaner oxygen for us.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Studies done by NASA as far back as 1989 tell us that we really already knew–houseplants clean the indoor air we breathe:
“Data on plant-mediated indoor air quality come from experiments conducted by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). As NASA researchers explored the possibilities of long-term space habitation, it became evident that the air in a tightly sealed space capsule would quickly become contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals released by the materials used to manufacture the capsule interior.
“In addition to basic photosynthesis that removes carbon dioxide and returns oxygen to the air, plants can remove toxicants from air, soil, and water in at least two ways. First, they can metabolize some toxic chemicals, releasing harmless by-products, and second, they can incorporate toxicants such as heavy metals into plant tissues, thus sequestering them.”
The study summarized its findings in relation to “sick building syndrome” and the use of indoor plants to ameliorate its effects:
“Low-light-requiring houseplants, along with activated carbon plant filters, have demonstrated the potential for improving indoor air quality by removing trace organic pollutants from the air in energy-efficient buildings. This plant system is one of the most promising means of alleviating the sick building syndrome associated with many new energy-efficient buildings. The plant root-soil zone appears to be the most effective area for removing volatile organic chemicals. Therefore, maximizing air exposure to the plant root-soil area should be considered when placing plants in buildings for best air filtration.”
Authors add that in combination with activated carbon filters with fans, large volumes of air can be effectively cleaned.