Breathe a little Easier…with the help of these 12 plants

I recently tried a new workout that was really great. It was fun and went by quickly and I was the  perfect amount of sore the next day.  Much as I liked it, I can’t go back. You see it was a brand new studio, built with typical construction materials and new carpet. The “new room” smell was so strong,  it felt a bit like taking a toxic steam bath.  Every time the teacher reminded us to breathe deeply,  I sort of cringed.  The nasty effects of indoor air pollution are certainly cringe worthy.  Of course it is best to avoid toxic materials whenever you can, but indoor pollutants are introduced into our homes and workspaces in ways we don’t often recognize.  Common pollutants such as formaldehyde  are found in common items such as paper products, inks  and furnishings. Happily there may be some help in keeping our air clean and it is beautiful.

     While researching how to create breathable environments in space NASA began testing common houseplants as air cleaners.  In their study, various plants were put inside a sealed chamber into which chemical  toxins were injected.  After 24 hours, under these controlled conditions certain plants were found to remove up to 87% of the indoor air pollutants.
An increasing amount of corroborating research also indicates the benefit of live plants to improve indoor air quality.  In his own research,  Kamal Meattle used Areca Palms, Mother-in Law Tongue, an Money Plants in his office building. He found after adding the plants there was  a 34% reduction in respiratory problems, a 24% reduction in headaches and a 52% reduction in eye irritation amongst the employees who worked there. There was also a 15% drop in energy usage since the need for air conditioning equipment was reduced.   According to studies have shown that English Ivy placed in a container of moldy bread removed 60% of airborne mold in 6 hours and 78% was gone after 12 hours.

Here are a some of the top air cleaning houseplants:

1. Boston Fern
Boston Ferns are most effective at removing formaldehyde. Studies have also shown that they can remove heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic from the soil
2. Spider Plants
Removes carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide as well as formaldehyde
3.  Areca Palm
Removes formaldehyde and is a great air humidifier

4. Peace Lily

Very easy to grow with beautiful white blooms. Effective at removing benzene and trichloroethylene

5.  Philodendron

Excellent at removing formaldehyde

6. Snake Plants or Mother of Law Tongue

Removes benzene and  formaldehyde

7. Bamboo Palm

Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene

8.  Dracaena

Removes formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene

9. Rubber Plant

Provides moisture, suppresses air based organisms and removes voc’s

10. Gerbera Daisy

Removes benzene

11. Chrysanthemum

Removes benzene

12. English Ivy

Removes benzene and airbased mold and feces

For more information read B.C. Wolverton’s ” How to Grow Fresh Air, 50 houseplants the purify your home or office” Wolverton is a scientist who originally worked on the air cleaning research at NASA,  and has continued work on air and water quality through his own company.    

Take Action

Since we often advocate contacting your representatives, here is a handy list of all of our government representatives from the local level here in Santa Barbara all the way to Washington.

City  Council of Santa Barbara

P.O. Box 1990 Santa Barbara, Ca 93102

Council Members and contact information found here

County Board of Supervisors

105 East Anapamu St    Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Boardmembers and contact information found here

State Of California

Das Williams, Assemblymember

101 West Anapamu St Suite A

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 564-1649             (916) 319-2035               Website

Tony Strickland,  Senator

225 East Carrillo Street Suite 302

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 965-0862                (916) 651-4019            Website


Lois Capps, Representative

1216 State Street Suite 403

Santa Barbara, Ca 93101

(805) 730-1710                   (202) 225-3601                 Website

Barbara Boxer, Senator

112 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC, 20510

(202) 224-3553         Website

Diane Feinstein, Senator

331 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC, 20510

(202) 224-3841         Website

Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington DC 20500

(202) 456-1111 comments

(202) 456-1414 switchboard

email              Website