Plants that purify the air

by M. Arjoca,

MarantaWe all know that we live in a dirty environment. But not just the air, the waters and the soil are polluted. Almost all objects that surround us or that we use and also the food we eat, contain substances that are dangerous for our health.
We are wrong when we think that staying inside our home we are protected from polluted outdoor air.
The furniture from our homes is treated with chemicals that must protect it from deterioration. The paints, the varnishes and other household materials are toxic and dangerous. The packages of different objects or food, the clothes we wear, contain substances that emanate toxic fumes. The cosmetics and cleaning products, the paper, contain or are treated with such substances that pollute the air. And we breathe this air.
Sometime, when for example, you buy a new couch or a new home appliance or when you are in a new car, you feel the bad smell these things emanate. Some people have nausea or headache. And even if their smell doesn’t bother us, these substances are dangerous and many people become allergic or become ill.
The benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, chloroform and xylene are among the substances that may be present in our homes.
Lately the houses and the office buildings have been insulated and many have ventilation systems that recirculate the air. So, the indoor air can be very heavy and polluted.
Having in mind this aspect, Dr. B.C. Wolverton, environmental scientist and specialist in cleaning polluted waters, thought that if you can not build your house in nature, why not try to bring the nature in your house? His idea was to clean the indoor air with the help of plants.
Wolverton made some experiments for NASA and tried to establish which plants remove efficiently pollutants from houses. He said that the mechanism through which the plants purify the air is very simple. The plants transpire through their leaves and the water vapor pulls down to the ground the toxic substances from air. From the ground they absorb them and use them as food or energy. Therefore a plant is more efficient when she has a larger surface of leaves and a larger pot. Of course, it is also important how large is the room and how much polluted is the air. The number of plants depends on all these aspects. The purification is more efficient when there are more plants.
B.C. Wolverton says that you don’t have to worry that the plants will form mold and this way to become allergic. To prevent mold you can cover the ground with gravel. He says also that you don’t have to worry that the plants will remove the oxygen at night. Not all plants use oxygen during night. For example, the succulents, orchids and snake plant emanate oxygen at night.
Among the plants B.C. Wolverton used in his experiments, are: Ficus, ivy (Hedera helix), fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata), peace lily (Spathiphyllum), Dracaena, gerbera daisy (Gerbera), pot mum (Chrysanthemum), dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii), bamboo palm (Chamaedorea).
SpathiphyllumAs you can see, most of them are tropical plants. That means that they are adapted to semi-shaded areas, they have many leaves, they have abundant transpiration and can be grown indoor.
The experts from NASA and B.C. Wolverton established that very efficient in cleaning trichlorethylene from air are: Dracaena, peace lily (Spathiphyllum), gerbera daisy (Gerbera), bamboo palm (Chamaedorea) and pot mums (Chrysanthemum). The trichloroethylene is a very dangerous substance that may affect the leaver, the kidneys and the heart. It can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and can diminish the sense of smell. Plus it can cause a state of excitement followed by depression and memory loss.
Trichloroethylene is a carcinogen founded in paints, adhesives, solvents, carpet cleaners and in cigarette smoke. Earlier it was used as anesthetic and to extract caffeine from cafe beans.

Another dangerous substance is the benzene. It is used to produce plastics, oils, synthetic rubber and paints. It is also a carcinogen and can be found in cleaning products, detergents, solvents, drugs, pesticides and in cigarette smoke. The benzene causes dizziness, headache, nausea and breathing problems. To eliminate benzene from air you can grow: ivy (Hedera helix), gerbera daisy (Gerbera), mums (Chrysanthemum), peace lily (Spathiphyllum), snake plant (Sansevieria), bamboo-palm, Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) and Dracaena.
Spider plantFormaldehyde is a substance used for the treatment of wood and wood materials. It is found in adhesives, oils, varnishes, solvents, detergents, insulating materials and in paper. It is also found in disinfectants, cigarette smoke, cosmetics, clothes etc. Formaldehyde causes irritation of eyes and nose, breathing problems and it is very possible to be also a carcinogen. According to B. Wolverton and NASA, the plants that clean very well formaldehyde are: bamboo-palm (Chamaedorea), snake plant (Sansevieria), Dracaena, peace lily (Spathiphyllum), Pothos, Philodendron, Ficus, ivy (Hedera helix), spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), mums (Chrysanthemum), gerbera daisy (Gerbera), rubber plant (Ficus elastica), fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata), and dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii). 
Xylene and toluene are founded in paints, adhesives, plastics, cosmetics. They can be eliminated with the help of: Dracaena, dumb cane (Diffenbachia), dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii), fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata), orchids (Phalenopsis; Dendrobium) and Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens).
These are the main substances studied by B. Wolverton and NASA specialists. But the plants mentioned above eliminate also other pollutants from air. So, having plants around us is a really good thing for us.

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