The air in our homes is more polluted than outside. This fact has been scientifically proven. To remedy this, there is no need for large technical means; some plants are more than enough. However, one must be able to identify them and place them in appropriate locations within the house to benefit from their cleansing properties in order to reduce the symptoms due to the household pollutants’ toxic impregnation (headaches, skin irritation, respiratory problems…)

The main pollutants found in our homes are grouped in the category of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds include benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and carbon. They are released by cigarette smoke, solvent fumes, paints, furniture, and insulator. For example, most household products contain ammonia, which is harmful to the respiratory tracts. Carpets, even after installation, release VOC solvents in times of high heat. Similarly, copy machines and computers produce significant levels of VOCs and toxic gases, as is also the case of insulating material in older or damaged homes.

Biological mechanism of depolluting plantsĀ 

Plant metabolism consists of a series of absorption (daytime) and perspiration phases (overnight). The plants’ leaves are provided with stomata that allow the plants to absorb chemicals from the air. Once absorbed, these compounds are transformed into nutrients through micro-organisms present in the roots, and are then used as food by the plant. This absorption takes care of the “cleansing” function of depolluting plants. In addition, the plants give off water vapour, which will humidify the air inside. For you must know that a dry atmosphere is a polluted atmosphere. Thus, a depolluting plant would increase a room’s humidity level by 5%, making indoor air healthier.

The main depolluting plantsĀ 

Remember that each plant is a specific anti-pollutant. Azalea can clear the air of ammonia. Chlorophytum rids the air of carbon monoxide, while chrysanthemum neutralises trichloroethylene. Philodendron and aloe vera are more effective against formaldehyde molecules. Philodendron is also able to counteract pentachlorophenol. Benzene is absorbed by ivy. And finally, Aglaonema, as well as Sansevieria and Dracaena marginata, absorbs toluene and benzene.

It is recommended to set up several different plant species inside the house to cover a broader range of pollutants. When choosing, remember that the broader-leaved plants have a greater absorption capacity. And finally, the ideal indoor dispersion of depolluting plants would be one plant species for every 9 square meters.

Choosing plants based on chemical compounds

If you are unable to determine the type of chemical pollutants released in your home, you should simply install broad-range depolluting plants in different rooms of your house. These include, but are not limited to, Golden Cane Palm (Dypsis lutescens), Spathiphyllum, Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) or Schefflera.

In certain precise cases, such as humidifying the air or getting rid of static electricity, fern is the ideal depolluting plant. However, there are other plants with the same actions, such as Dieffenbachia and Gerbera species. At times, your home’s atmosphere may seem bland or dry. This is most often due to tobacco smoke. To remedy this, install plants that absorb benzene, such as ivy, Kentia palm and ficus. Chlorophytum and Dracaena also neutralize the smell of stale smoke.

For kitchen and bathroom, where the use of household products is common, we recommend depolluting plants that absorb ammonia, namely Lady palm and azalea. For the living room and the kitchen, ficus, anthurium or ivy will do.

Formaldehyde is also found in significant amounts in our homes. Released by cigarette smoke, it is also found in furniture made of chipboard or wood, and in soft furnishings (curtains, sheets, rugs). We also find formaldehyde in some household products such as paint, nail polish, adhesive or hair spray. To counter formaldehyde, you can set up a container of ivy, ficus, or Kentia palm.

In case of recent paintwork, a high rate of trichloroethylene can be present in indoor air. To get rid of it, simply install a pot of chrysanthemums or philodendron in the room that was recently painted.

Depolluting plants in the office

Markers, felt-tip pens, copy machines and printers release many toxic substances. The concentration of these substances is greater in the offices, which is why depolluting plants are highly recommended. Among these plants: cactus, to place near a computer because it is capable of absorbing the electromagnetic waves generated by the device.

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Published in Green plants by Alexander on 28 Jul 2011