Plants in general improve the quality of air in any environment they are in. With indoor pollutants being a common problem, investing in plants that can improve the quality of air through increasing the amount of oxygen in the area would be the best for your home. In this article you will learn more about photosynthesis, common household pollutants, a few scientific studies done on the topic, why we need better air quality, and what other plants give off the most oxygen.
In improving the quality of air in a given space, we take into account the amount of oxygen a plant provides. Three houseplants have gone through extensive research and has been proven to be effective in improving overall air quality – the Areca Palm, Snake Plant and the Money Plant.
How Do Plants Give Off Oxygen?
The term photosynthesis literally translates to “making things with light.” During this process, the plant produces its own food with the help of light, water and carbon dioxide. Oxygen is the waste product of the plant after going through photosynthesis. So how does it happen?
It starts when plants collect nutrients and water from the soil. These nutrients travel through the xylem and is distributed throughout the plant itself. The photons from the sun’s rays then provide the energy the plant needs in order for photosynthesis to actually commence. When the chlorophyll absorbs the photons, it reflects yellow and green light, this is why plants appear green to us.
Microscopic pores in the plant called the stomata absorbs carbon dioxide present in the air. In exchange, plants expel oxygen. As we know, oxygen is important to all human and animal life. Air quality is improved significantly due to the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere. With more plants in our environment, we would have a better quality of life.
Common Household Pollutants
On the topic of improving indoor air quality, we need to know what are the common indoor pollutants. Over the past few years, there have been numerous researches done on the air pollution that is generated within the household. Most of these pollutants are caused by advancements in the developing world. These advancements, although quite helpful in everyday life, can be harmful in prolonged exposure.
- Fuel Combustion Appliances
The term combustion describes process wherein substances react to oxygen to give off heat. Such items under this category are space heaters, lighting, and stoves. Cooking is definitely one of the most common causes of indoor pollution and is often neglected. When we cook with solid fuels like biomass or coal, we expose ourselves to the harsh chemicals that are produced after it is burned. Same goes with gas fuels like methane. By improving the air quality around places with these appliances, we can lessen the amount of air pollution in those said areas.
- Insufficient Ventilation
Most homes may come with a exhaust hood right above the stove, or have exhaust fans installed in the kitchen. However, this is not enough to completely remove indoor pollutants in your home. Which is why it is important to have ample ventilation such as windows. However, if you do live in heavily polluted urban areas, this could be a cause for concern.
- Cigarette Smoke
The number one cause of lung diseases and other chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD) is cigarette smoke. Aside from the detrimental effects on the smokers themselves, second and third hand smoke affect everyone else in the household. Which is why smoking is highly discouraged, especially around younger children.
Finding an affordable solution to address this problem has been discussed for years and years on end. In fact, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has conducted a study on interior plants for indoor air pollution back in 1989.
NASA on Indoor Plants
The study conducted by Dr. B.C. Wolverton and his team was started in 1989 and followed by an update shortly after.
The research was based on an actual experiment done where common household plants were put into chambers and then were exposed to harmful aerosol chemicals like ammonia, xylene, formaldehyde and benzene. After 24 hours, the air quality of each chamber was tested. Some plants were able to remove upto 90% of the harmful chemicals. The plants were able to take the harmful gases from the environment and sequester them internally. Some of these chemicals were broken down while others were stored in the plant. Based on this experiment, in theory plants can also help clean harmful smoke from cigarettes and other major sources.
Among the plants noted to be most effective in eliminating indoor carcinogens during this experiment are:
- Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
- Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
According to further research done, plants that are bigger and possess larger and greener leaves will be more effective in absorbing more of the harmful toxins and produce more oxygen.
Why We Need to Improve Air Quality in Our Homes?
Increasing the amount of oxygen indoors is part of improving air quality. Having clean and fresh air is very important. An estimated number of 25,000 people die each year in the US due to air pollution. Exposure to the toxins in the air can cause both short term and long term issues on lung health, resulting in deleterious outcomes for those affected.
As a homeowner, it would be your duty and responsibility to your household to improve living conditions as well as protect yourself from any impending harm.
A study done in New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, mentions three specific houseplants that not only improve the quality of air, but provides more oxygen within the living space. Kamal Meattle, the researcher, hosted a TED Talk specifically discussing the improvement he personally experienced by living with these three plants after being diagnosed with a severe allergy to the pollution in his city. His lung capacity has gone down to 70% and inhaling more toxins from the very polluted air was literally killing him.
- Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
In order to be effective, you would need at least 4 shoulder high plants per person present in the living space.
- Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
Also known as the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, this plant is quite versatile in size and definitely the most low maintenance of all. This has been deemed as an excellent bedroom plant, since it is quite efficient in converting Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen even while sleeping. Meattle mentions that you would need at least 6 to 8 at waist high per person.
- Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum)
Noted for its excellent ability in absorbing volatile chemicals, this plant is quite useful around areas where there is a high amount of air pollution.
With these three plants, you can literally grow fresh air in your home. Meattle says, you could be trapped in a sealed space with these three plants and you would not die due to the amount of oxygen you can get from them.
Meattle and his team used over 1,200 plants in a 50,000ft2 building for 300 occupants. The experiment lasted for 15 years and was able to prove that if a person stays in this special building for 10 hours, their blood-oxygen level improves by 1%. Being a huge success, the team has moved forward in creating a bigger space with more plants to help their fellow citizens improve the way they live.
Other Common Houseplants that Give Off Oxygen
Aside from the top three plants: Areca Palm, Snake, and Money Plant here are other plants that give off more oxygen and improves air quality greatly.
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
This plant does require a lot of attention, constant watering and regular misting is needed to keep it in tip-top shape.
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp)
These plants need to be placed in well-draining soil. It thrives in a lot of moisture and indirect sunlight, that being said, keeping your Peace Lily indoors in a slightly shady and warm area would be idea for its growth.
- Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
This flowering plant is actually part of the study conducted by NASA. It is noted for its ability to produce a lot of oxygen in spite of its small size and is quite effective in removing harmful toxins like benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.
- Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica)
As mentioned by botanical experts, the larger the plant the more effective it is in providing you with Oxygen. The Neem Tree can grow as tall as 20 meters tall and has lush green leaves excellent in producing Oxygen.
- True Aloe (Aloe vera)
More commonly known for its medicinal properties, the Aloe vera is also a great air purifying plant that releases oxygen all day and night, unlike most plants which produces oxygen only during the day time.
By choosing to have one of these houseplants in your home, you are not only adding valuable pieces to your indoor garden but also improving the quality of air in your home keeping you away from fatal diseases.