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How to keep you and your air healthy!

An intervention study conducted in California found that (unsurprisingly), using an air purifier resulted in significant improvements in nasal symptoms in children with hay fever. The Samsung air purifier used in that study contained a HEPA filter that captured particles 0.3 microns and larger. Another HEPA air filter used in a 2018 study in China found that it improved symptoms in patients with hay fever. Studies have also shown that interior foliage changes air particle accumulation – rooms containing vegetation have lower levels of air particles.

Different plants may attract and remove specific toxins better than others, though, making it a good idea to use multiple species. Here’s a rundown of the top plants for different types of airborne toxins (peer-reviewed Journal references for this list are here, here, here, here and here).

A great way of starting an evaluation of your air is by using 2 petri dishes one for out side and one for inside then cover in foil and set in a cool dark place and see what grows. Dr. Pam

Plants that Have Been Shown to Remove Specific Toxins

Trichloroethylene: Epipremnum aureum (devil’s ivy or ‘money plant’)*

Benzene: Epipremnum aureum (devil’s ivy or ‘money plant’)*, Spathiphyllum spp. (peace lily)

Toluene: Hedera helix (common ivy), Philodendron spp., Sanseviera spp. (devil’s tongue or snake plant)

Xylene: Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant)

Formaldehyde: Osmunda japonica (Japanese royal fern), other ferns, Spathiphyllum spp. (peace lily), Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant)

General VOC removal: Purple waffle, Purple heart, English Ivy, Asparagus fern, Variegated wax and Crassula portulacea (jade plant)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: removal attributed to bacterial species present on leaves of many ornamental plants (nonspecific)

Mercury vapor: Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish moss)

Ozone: snake plant, spider plant, golden pothos

General toxin removal: Spider plant, peace lily, english ivy and golden pothos

*Grown on an activated carbon filter system. Activated carbon is available for potted plants.

While it’s nice to have some data that link specific species to the removal of specific toxins (especially if you know you have specific exposures or an elevated body burden of a specific toxin), the research isn’t that extensive, and so we would still recommend a variety of species. Keep the air in your living and working spaces moving, too, since air movement increases the effectiveness of plants at removing toxins.

Fascinating Fact! While you may think that plants collect and detoxify air pollutants through their leaves, it’s actually their roots and the plant’s associated microorganism population that take up and process toxins.

Things to know about keeping healthy houseplants – avoid introducing plants to your home that have been sprayed with pesticides or come in plastic pots. Water your plants appropriately but don’t allow them to become moldy. Dust leaves to maintain their effectiveness and reduce the room’s dust burden.

Reducing indoor air pollutant sources helps to minimize their levels in your home or office to begin with. Use building and decorating products that have no or fewer toxin emissions. Don’t use or store chemicals, solvents, glues or pesticides. Keep your home smoke free. Use exhaust fans in kitchens, baths and laundry areas. And minimize the use of candles and wood fires.

Consumer Reports has a review of air machine purifiers.

Author: Romilly Hodges, MS CNS

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