Indoor air quality is becoming an increasingly important issue these days, with the increase in pollutants not only from the outside environment, but also from common items inside your home, such as carpets, furniture made with particle board, household cleaning products, paint and even air fresheners. So what can you do to help ensure that the air you and your family breathe every day is as clean as possible? Plants are actually excellent air purifiers, and NASA has come up with a list of the best ones for absorbing harmful gases and helping to keep the air in your home fresh.

In a 2-year study conducted by NASA in partnership with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, researchers found that many common ornamental household plants were highly effective at removing indoor air pollution and combating what is known as “sick building syndrome,” the symptoms of which are irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and skin, and general flu-like symptoms. Some of the gases and airborne microbes these plants are found to be effective at removing are formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, trichloroethylene and mold.

Many of the 15 plants they tested were able to remove up to 87 percent of indoor air pollution in only 24 hours. The plants included in the study were:

According to lead NASA researcher Dr. Bill Wolverton, who conducted the study and has written a book on the subject called, How to Grow Fresh Air-50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office, the houseplants that are most effective at removing pollutants with the least amount of care are the peace lily, areca palm, lady palm, ficus alii and golden pathos. These not only cleanse the air, but also add a healthy amount of humidity to the environment.
In addition to improving the decor, homes filled with houseplants have been found to have between 50 and 60 percent fewer bacteria and mold spores. English ivy is a particularly good mold remover, eliminating up to 60 percent of mold in the area in only 6 hours.

In order to optimally purify the air in your home, it is suggested that you allow for 1-2 plants in an 8 to 10-inch pot for every 100 square feet of living space. Be aware that some plant leaves are toxic, in case you have animals or young children. Plants can be a quick, beautiful and natural solution to reducing the effect of air pollutants in your home.

The main causes of indoor air quality problems are pollution sources that release particles or gases into the air inside your home. Poor ventilation can raise indoor pollution levels by impeding fresh air circulation, which prevents dilution and transfer of indoor air pollutants outside the home. In places where heat and humidity are high, there can be higher concentrations of some pollutants.

Sources of indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution can come from sources such as gas, oil, coal, kerosene, and wood burning products. Certain building materials can increase pollutant levels, such as asbestos, damp carpets, certain pressed wood products. Household cleaning, renovation and hobby products can be sources of indoor air pollution, as can central heating and cooling systems. Finally, outdoor sources such as pesticides, radon, and outdoor air pollution can contribute to indoor air pollution in your home.

Whether or not any of these things results in poor or dangerous indoor air quality depends on many factors. These factors include the age of the source, the quantity of pollutant it releases, how hazardous the pollutants are, and how well maintained the source is. For example, a gas stove emits carbon monoxide, but a properly adjusted stove emits far less than an improperly adjusted stove.

Effects on health

Poor indoor air quality can result in a variety of symptoms, including nose and eye irritation, sore throat, dizziness, headache, and fatigue. These symptoms are treatable and, if the exposure to the pollutants is stopped, usually go away quickly. More serious illnesses, such as asthma pneumonitis, and humidifier fever are also possible consequences of poor indoor air quality.

Your age and your general health status affect your sensitivity to indoor air pollutants, as does your genetic makeup, which varies from person to person. Sometimes the symptoms resemble those of a viral or bacterial infection, so it can be hard to know if the problem is due to indoor air pollution. It is important to note the time and place the symptoms started, and if they change depending on location. If the symptoms fade when away from home, for example, indoor air quality problems are a likely source of the problem.

Some health effects take years of exposure to develop. They include cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Because these illnesses are so serious, it is a good idea to try to ensure good indoor air quality in your home at all times, even if no one living in your house has any symptoms. This can be accomplished by eliminating sources of pollution or reducing their emissions, improving ventilation in the home, and by using effective air cleaners.

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