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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Green Building Resource Center
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Page updated Jul 27, 2012 9:33 AM
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Houseplants imageHouseplants, Nature's Air Purifier

When renting, tenants often do not think about air quality until they suspect that it is making them sick. While those who reside in older apartments may worry about toxins from old paint or asbestos insulation, tenants of new structures still may not be in the clear with regards to air quality. New buildings are better insulated and sealed more tightly in an effort to conserve heat or air-conditioning. While these developments in design are lowering utility bills, many of these apartments also come with synthetic carpeting and plastic coated wallpaper which contain VOCs or volatile organic compounds. Moreover, newer furniture is often made of particle board which contains formaldehyde, while benzene and trichloroethylene are found in many paints and oils. This means that not only is heat or AC better contained in these buildings, so too are the pollutants released from housing materials.

Understandably, most renters are only willing to invest small amounts of money in a home they do not own. While the owners of the property may make necessary repairs to older homes, these newer constructions are toxic in their newness. Luckily, the same house plants you use to decorate your apartment can simultaneously clean your air. NASA, a group highly engaged with emerging technologies and materials within the realm of enclosed spaces, performed a study that proved plants effectiveness at improving air quality. The study began when researcher Bill Wolverton noticed in the 1960s that swamp plants were eliminating the Agent Orange used in the U.S. military’s biological warfare centers. NASA discovered that when plants perform photosynthesis, they also clean harmful gasses like benzene or formaldehyde out of the air in the process. The study found that 15-18 houseplants, 6 to 8-inches in diameter, can improve the air quality of the average home. This makes houseplants an aesthetically pleasing, affordable, and eco-friendly alternative to air purifiers. Some of the plants NASA included on their list include English Ivy, Spider Plants, Pot Mums, and Rubber Plants. A full list of NASA’s top plants can be found here. When choosing houseplants, remember your plants need to be healthy to keep you healthy! Be sure to ask your nursery specialist how much light, humidity, and water your houseplants will need as well as their ideal range of room temperatures. Bhg.com has a list of hearty, no fuss house plants that can be found here.

Sites used:

Air/Water Purification | NASA
Plants Clean Air and Water for Indoor Environments
Research Reveals Houseplants Improve Indoor Air Quality | Sylvane

Green Building Resource Center
301 King St., Room 4100
Alexandria, Va 22314
703.746.4065
Fax: 703.519.3356
E-mail

Office Hours:
Monday-Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.