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House Plants, NASA, And Your Indoor Air Quality

Posted in Air Quality, on April 17, 2017

Your indoor air quality can be affected by many things both inside - such as house plants - and outside of your environment, and when it becomes poor, your indoor air quality can have a serious effect on your health. Indoor air pollution is currently a hot topic, though not a new one; since the late 1970s people have been studying, testing and improving indoor air quality at home and at our businesses. As our buildings get more tightly sealed, they protect us from the bad things outside, but sometimes it’s what is already inside that can be causing indoor air quality issues. With concerns about indoor air quality growing, people are dusting off a NASA report from 1989 to look for ways to combat this problem. NASA was concerned about how to protect astronauts in the closed environment of space ships and stations, where indoor air quality (indeed, the only air quality) was of top concern in the hostile environment of space.

The solution they hit upon was one that was deceptively simple: house plants. Not only do our houseplants make us happier, boost our workplace productivity, and look beautiful, but they can have a positive effect on your indoor air quality by helping to clean and reduce airborne toxins and other pollutants. In the NASA study they looked at a number of common culprits when it comes to poor indoor air quality, two of which are:


This common solvent is usually much more common indoors, making it one of the major players in indoor air quality. It is formed from things like smoking cigarettes, gasoline and diesel exhaust, and is one of the most widely used chemicals in North America. It becomes an indoor air pollutant easily because it appears in so many household products like lubricants, glues, paint, and pesticides. Benzene is listed as a human carcinogen and can irritate the eyes and skin in small doses.


This chemical is not just for preserving specimens in science class - it is found in nearly all indoor environments, and can greatly affect your indoor air quality. Formaldehyde appears in things like insulation, paper grocery bags, and household cleaning agents. Like benzene, it is a carcinogen and volatile organic compound. The most common form of exposure to formaldehyde is through poor indoor air quality. Objects and tools that may bring these toxic chemicals into your home are ubiquitous, and paying attention to your indoor air quality is a key step in making sure your home or office is a safe environment. NASA’s study found that houseplants were able to reduce some of the poor indoor air quality in their tests, absorbing and minimizing airborne pollutants. But you shouldn’t rely only on your green thumb to keep your indoor air quality safe - NASA’s report concluded that plants have a great potential in being part of a larger system of indoor air quality control and maintenance. 

If you suspect your health could be suffering from poor indoor air quality, be sure to investigate the source of any leaks, toxic materials or off-gassing objects, and seek the help and knowledge of a trained professional to help in finding, and eliminating, any indoor air quality issues in your home.

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