Leafy greens aren’t just good on the plate – they’re also great to have around the home and office.
Of course, I don’t mean you should throw lettuce around or leave a trail of spinach… but new research finds that certain potted plants can clean indoor air through a process called phytoremediation.
I know you’re probably thinking that the air inside can’t possibly be as bad as the smoke and smog we’re exposed to outside… but actually, in many places, indoor air is far worse than anything you’ll find outdoors.
In fact, the World Health Organization says indoor pollution kills 1.6 million people per year.
I’m not sure how you begin to quantify a number like that… but that fact is we are exposed to some pretty bad stuff in everything from paint to cleaning chemicals. These toxins can make us sick and cause allergic reactions.
With that in mind, researchers led by horticulturist Stanley J. Kays of the University of Georgia tested 28 plants for their ability to fight common volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
They grew these plants inside a shade house for eight weeks, placed them indoors for another 12 weeks, and then put them into sealed gas-tight jars with five of what Kays called the most common VOCs:
- – Benzene and toluene, from petroleum-based indoor coatings, cleaning solutions, plastics, cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes that slip indoors;
- – Octane from paint, adhesives and building materials;
- – TCE from tap water, cleaning agents, insecticides and plastics; and
- – Alpha-pinene from synthetic paints and odorants.
Then, the researchers analyzed the air inside those jars.
And according to the results of their study published in the journal HortScience, five of those 28 plans are worth keeping around. Purple waffle plant, English ivy, variegated wax plant and asparagus fern were the best at removing all five VOCs. Purple heart plant took care of four out of the five.
The best news of all is that these are all very common and very inexpensive plants. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, replacing them every now and then until you get the hang of caring for them right won’t set you back too much – many of these are in the $5-$10 range.
Hey, that’s even cheaper than some air fresheners – and who knows what chemicals are in those.
Edward Martin is a health journalist who writes about today's most pressing health issues. He chronicles the most cutting-edge alternative methods for beating everything from diabetes to cancer and reports on the latest FDA foul-ups and Big Pharma conspiracies.