Why indoor plants are important for indoor air quality

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Indoor air quality is a major problem for commercial buildings. Indoor plants can filter the air in offices to eliminate harmful toxins present in most commercial buildings.

Most people spend about 90% of their time indoors. In 1970, the Arab oil embargo led building designers and operators to reduce ventilation rates to improve their energy efficiency. This reduced ventilation ultimately led to widespread health issues among indoor workers, and instigated numerous investigations into what became known as Sick Building Syndrome. More recent EPA studies have found that pollutant levels are generally two to five times higher indoors than outdoors – and in some instances even 100 times higher than outdoors.

The most common indoor air contaminants are the volatile organic compounds (VOC). The main sources of VOC are adhesives, upholstery, carpeting, copy machines, manufactured wood products, pesticides, and cleaning agents. Often, it is difficult to determine which pollutant or pollutants are the sources of a person’s ill health. Many indoor air pollutants cannot be detected by our senses, and the symptoms they produce can be vague, making it hard to attribute them to a specific cause. Some symptoms may not show up until years later, making it even harder to discover the cause. The most common symptoms of exposure to indoor air pollutants are headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, itchy nose, and scratchy throat. More serious effects are breathing disorders and cancer.

Indoor plants can help.

NASA conducted a seminal study on indoor air quality in 1989 to quantify the pollution-minimizing effects of different species of plants. The resulting list of plants is still used by indoor plant companies today as a guide to help clients maximize the air quality impacts of their interior plant installations.

Through our years of experience, we’ve found that the plants on the original NASA list that work best for indoor offices include:

  • Broadleaf Ladypalm – Rhapis excelsa
  • Varigated Snake Plant – Sansevieria Laurentii
  • Weeping Fig – Ficus Benjamina
  • Red-Edged Dracaena – Dracaena Marginata
  • Chinese Evergreen – Aglaonema modestum
  • Cornstalk Dracaena – Dracaena Massangeana
  • Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum
  • Bamboo Palm – Chamadorea seifrizii
  • Flamingo Lily – Anthurium andraeanum

Other indoor plants that have significant air quality benefits include:

  • Most varieties of Dracaenas
  • Most varieties of Ficus
  • Most varieties of Aglaonema
  • Pothos