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Grow Some Fresh Air!

Plants that Purify Your Environment
by Lynn Collins

Houseplants have long been appreciated for their aesthetic value. Recent research has proven they are also important for their ability to purify the air of toxins. We've included a list of the ten best plants that purify your environment on the continued page.

Buildings have been constructed to be more energy efficient over the years. This is a great way to conserve precious resources; however toxic gasses are also trapped, leading to serious health problems. Between work and home, many people are spending most of their time indoors. The length of time an individual stays in a sealed environment can contribute to Sick Building Illness (SBI) or Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). Some of the symptoms associated with SBI are allergies, asthma, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, fatigue, headache, nervous system disorders, respiratory congestion, and sinus congestion.

Many people exhibiting these symptoms have been considered to be hypochondriacs, or are thought to be exaggerating or crazy. Recent studies have proven these illnesses are valid. The EPA currently rates indoor pathogens as one of the top five threats to public health.

Some of the toxins released into the air are from synthetic furnishings and other items. Formaldehyde is the most common, and it is used to treat household products such as garbage bags, paper towels, facial tissues, fabrics, permanent press materials, carpet backing, floor coverings, adhesives, paneling, particle board and plywood. It is also released by gas stoves and tobacco smoke. Xylene and Toluene are used in caulking products, ceiling tiles, computer VDU screens, floors, paints, stains, varnishes, and wallpaper.

Benzene is added to adhesives, caulking products, paints, ceiling tiles, wallpaper and tobacco. Trichloroethylene is emitted from copy machines. Chloroform can be released when chlorinated tap water is heated. Ammonia is added to cleaning products. Alcohols are released from products such as caulk, ceiling tiles, cosmetics, paints, stains, particle board, floors and wallpaper. Acetone is added to cosmetics, nail polish and correction fluid.

Humans also release toxins into the air, which are termed bioeffluents. These include up to 150 volatile substances such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen, methane, phenols, methyl indole, aldehydes, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, acetone, ethyl alcohol, fatty acids, indol, and mercaptans.

Mold and bacteria also pose a serious health risk, when they are inhaled over time in a sealed environment.

When attempting to come up with a clean life support system for space station habitation, NASA came up with a solution to help filter these pathogens. They looked to a larger model for comparison, the earth's atmosphere. They discovered plants can also purify the air in enclosed buildings. Formaldehyde can be filtered out of the air by adding plants such as Boston Ferns, Chinese Evergreens, Spider Plants, Banana Trees, and Rubber Plants.

Bamboo Palms add moisture to the air and remove Benzene, Trichlorethylene and Formaldehyde. Areca Palms, Dwarf Date Palms, Moth Orchids, Dumb Canes and Queen Ferns can be planted to help dissipate Xylene and Toluene.

Ammonia can be removed from the air by planting Lady Palms, King of Hearts, Lily Turfs, Lady Janes, and Florist Mums. The Peace Lily removes Acetone, Methyl Alcohol, Ethyl Acetate, Benzene, Ammonia, Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde and Xylene!

The following Types of plants are also beneficial in cleaning household toxins from the air: Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm, Dracaena, English Ivy, Ficus Alii, Corn Plant, Golden Pothos, Gerbera Daisy, Dragon Tree, Red Emerald and Lacy Tree Philodendrons, Syngonium, Dumb Cane, Parlor Palm, Weeping Fig, Schefflera. Wax Begonia, Snake Plant, Norfolk Island Pine, King of Hearts, Prayer Plant, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, Oakleaf Ivy, Lily Turf, Dendrobium Orchid, Anthurium, Croton, Poinsettia, Dwarf Azalea, Peacock Plant, Aloe Vera, Cyclamen, Urn Plant, Tulip and Kalanchoe.

All plants release phytochemicals that can remove up to sixty percent of mold and bacteria.

Here is a list of ten of the most cleansing houseplants

Areca Palm
The Areca Palm is one of the best houseplants for removing all indoor pathogens. This plant is fast growing, beautiful and releases large amounts of moisture into the air. At six feet tall this palm can release up to a quart of water into the atmosphere every 24 hours!
Rubber Plant
The Rubber Plant is easy to grow even in low light and cool environments. It receives a high rating for the removal of all indoor toxins, and is especially effective in removing formaldehyde. Rubber Plants were imported from India and Malaya, and can grow to a height of 8 feet.
Dracaena (Janet Craig)
The dark green leaves of the Dracaena are beautiful and they serve an important function in the home. They are rated the highest for removal of trichloroethylene. These plants can grow to a height of 10 feet and they are tolerant of low light. They are low maintenance plants which can survive in neglectful conditions. This plant can be imported from either Africa or Asia, and it is receives a high score for the removal of all toxins.
English Ivy
This beautiful ground cover plant can also be grown indoors in hanging baskets. Although this plant has an excellent overall rating for removal of all indoor pathogens, it is especially effective in the removal of formaldehyde. English Ivy is easy to grow, yet it does not do well in high temperatures.
Ficus Alii
The Ficus Alii is an attractive plant which has increased in popularity as a household plant. It was originally imported from Thailand to Hawaii. In the 1980's it was first sold commercially in south Florida. All three types (standard, bush and braided) help purify the air, are easy to grow, and are resistant to insects.
Boston Fern
Boston Ferns date back to prehistoric times, and can be found in ancient fossils. Their lush foliage is the reason they were first introduced as houseplants in the Victorian age. This plant requires misting and frequent watering to keep it green and healthy. Of all the plants tested, it rated the highest for removing air pollutants. Boston Ferns are especially effective in removing formaldehyde from the air and in adding moisture to indoor environments.
Peace Lily
The Peace Lily has beautiful foliage and white flowers. It also has a high transpiration rate. Popular varieties include Clevelandii and Mauna Loa. The Peace Lily excels in removing alcohol, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. These purifying plants are originally from Columbia and Venezuela.
Golden Pathos
Golden Pathos plants are sometimes mistaken for Philodendrons. They are in the same family, and they are easy to grow. They are resistant to insect infestation and can withstand neglect. They originate from the Solomon Islands. These climbing vines are great for cleansing the air.
Snake Plant
Snake Plants are hardy and exotic. Their flowers are greenish white and fragrant. They were imported from West Africa and India, and there are over 70 species available. They remove some indoor pollutants, and they turn carbon dioxide into oxygen during the night.
Dumb Cane
Dumb Cane is better known by its species name of Dieffenbachia. It is a popular household plant, which has attractive patterns and colors in its lush foliage. These South American plants have a high transpiration rate, are easy to grow, and remove chemical vapors from the air.

For more information on this subject please read How To Grow Fresh Air, 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office by Dr. B. C. Wolverton

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