Sunday, October 5, 2008

Plants to Clean Your Air at Home

In his popular book How to Grow Fresh Air, Dr. B. C. Wolverton shares his NASA research on cleaning indoor air using house plants. His work led to improving air quality in space stations and long manned missions. Now he applies what he learned to what you can do at home. That's good news since blankets, toys, gas stoves, computers, and carpets can lead to allergies, asthma, even cancer. Some research indicates they might contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Wolverton has found that common indoor potted plants may improve indoor air by reducing levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

VOCs, (including benzene and hexane) exist at low levels in many homes. Some, like benzene, find their way inside through pollution from traffic outside. Others emerge as a result of their use in paints, carpeting, and furniture fabric, especially in new or recently refurbished buildings. VOCs can contribute to “sick building syndrome,” a phenomenon that causes dry eyes, nose and throat, headache, lethargy, and nausea.

400 plants can absorb toxic heavy metals and contaminants, like lead and arsenic, from soil and water through a process called phytoremediation. The plant’s root system literally absorbs pollutants and transports them to the leaves, where they remain until the plant is harvested. In some instances plants such as the poplar tree can even break down pollutants, like the pesticide atrazine, and make them harmless.

Wolverton found that some of the best air cleaners are the Areca Palm and Lady Palm, as well as Dracaenas and Chrysanthemums.

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