With their lush foliage and vibrant greenery, houseplants fill the home with warmth and color--and help bring a touch of nature indoors, according to Ladies' Home Journal. But experts are now discovering that plants are more than just decorative objects--they also clean the air.
Recent findings by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration prove that ordinary houseplants significantly reduce potentially dangerous indoor pollution.
While much environmental attention has been focused on the outside world, scientists say that what's happening inside the house may be more immediately threatening to the well-being of the inhabitants.
The air in some buildings is 100 times as polluted as the air outside, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Add to that the fact that Americans spend an estimated 90% of their time indoors, and it's easy to see why the EPA has concluded that indoor air pollution can pose serious acute and chronic health risks.
One of the most common problems is "sick building syndrome," due in large part to the particles given off by synthetic building materials, which have been in wide use for the past 25 years, combined with poor ventilation in buildings that are tightly sealed for energy efficiency.
Pollutants are also produced by such everyday objects as furniture, cleaning supplies, carpet backing, telephone cables and computers.
Symptoms of sick building syndrome include headaches, nausea, rashes, eye irritation and congestion. Especially toxic pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde can result in diseases of the blood system, respiratory ailments and even cancer.
The only way to prove these toxins are present in the home is through a detection monitoring system, which can usually be provided by the local health department, but most experts agree that virtually every home has some degree of indoor pollution.
Plants help combat the problem by purifying the air; scientists don't fully understand how, but they suspect plants absorb pollutants and in turn release oxygen through pores in their leaves and microorganisms living on their roots. So while plants can't completely rid the house of toxins, they will help.
The Foliage for Clean Air Council, a national clearinghouse for information on plants and indoor air quality, recommends that all buildings contain one large (3 to 4 feet) plant or several smaller plants for every 100 square feet of space. Because different plants absorb different chemicals, a variety will give the cleanest air.
So deck the halls with philodendron and ivy--they'll improve overall health as well as brighten the home.