According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an agency of the U.S. federal government designed to reduce environmental risks based on the best available scientific information (1), there are hundreds of chemicals (ranging from Aerosols to Volatile Organic Compounds) compromising our air quality.
When we think of air pollution, the majority of us may think auto emissions releasing smog, factory smoke stacks emitting various chemicals into the sky, or chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) from aerosol cans which hurt the ozone. Very rarely, in my experience, do people think about the one place we have control over; our homes. In a research study from the University of Kentucky (3), thousands of pollutants were shown to be in everyday homes from biological substances like mold to man-made woods off-gassing formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC). All of these foreign substances may be related to negative health implications by either causing or worsening ones disease. We think of our homes as a safe haven, a place to recoup after a long days work, yet we don’t think of our homes as the place that may potentially deteriorate our health.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) – While this is a very broad term, it’s just as dangerous as it sounds. These compounds are associated with headaches, seizures, skin reactions, nausea, fatigue, disrupt hormones, some are even known to cause cancers and the list doesn’t stop there. These compounds can include:
- Benzene: A chemical found in tobacco smoke, car exhaust, and fuels. Benzene is also used to make plastics and synthetic fibers.
- Formaldehyde: A chemical commonly seen in paint, adhesives, and pressed wood.
- Trichloroethylene: An industrial solvent seen in rug cleaners, adhesives, and paint removers
- Xylene and Toluene: Grouped together due to their structure being similar to one another. These are mostly seen in paint thinners, paints, glues, and NAIL POLISH!!!)
We here at TheHumanBluPrint like to think organic, so instead of shelling out for an expensive HEPA filter or resort to living in nature (as ideal as that sounds to me), we suggest that you consider purchasing plants from the list below that have been shown to significantly reduce the amount of harmful gasses that exist in homes:
All of the plants listed below were chosen due to the NASA Clean Air Study 3,5
- Snake Plant (Mother in Laws Tongue): This is probably one of the more interesting plants on this list primarily due to its ability to produce high amounts of oxygen in low light conditions. This is due to its ability for the stomata to open at night and stay closed during the day; to prevent dehydration. Another key feature of this plant is that it removes formaldehyde from the air which is a common VOC found in mattresses. This is the perfect plant for your bedroom.
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’): This compact house plant has been shown to remove formaldehyde, acetone, benzene, trichloroethylene, and ammonia from the air. This plant is one of NASA’s most commonly used air-filtering plants.
- Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens): In addition to the Snake Plant, the Areca Palm is another high converter of CO2 to O2. This plant produces most of its oxygen during the day. This plant removes xylene and toluene from the air.
- Devil’s ivy/Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): This fast growing, bright green leafy vine plant is another amazing choice for reducing formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene. Fun fact: As seen in Psychology Today, Devil’s Ivy is one of the plants used consistently in studies to show that plants make you feel better. (4)
On the Merck Manual website “High levels of air pollution can adversely affect lung function and trigger asthma and COPD exacerbations. Air pollution also increases risk of acute cardiovascular events (eg, MI) and development of coronary artery disease.” (1)