Air quality is improved by plants in general in almost any environment. The result of indoor pollutants being a common problem is the need to invest in homes that can increase their oxygen content through plants. In this article, you will learn more about photosynthesis, common household pollutants, some scientific studies on the topic, why air quality is important, and which plants give off the most oxygen.
In order to improve the quality of air in a given space, we consider the amount of oxygen plants provide. There have been extensive studies which demonstrate the effectiveness of Areca Palms, Snake Plants and Money Plants in improving air quality in living areas.
How Do Plants Give Off Oxygen?
With the help of light, water and carbon dioxide, the plant produces its own food during photosynthesis. After photosynthesis, oxygen is a waste product of the plant. But how does that happen?
The process begins when plants take in nutrients and water from the soil. The nutrients travel through the xylem and are distributed throughout the plant. When chlorophyll absorbs the photons from the sun, it reflects yellow and green light, which explains why plants appear green to us.
The stomata in plants are microscopic pores that absorb carbon dioxide present in the air and expel oxygen in exchange. We know that oxygen is essential for human and animal life. Air quality improves greatly because of the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere. With more plants in our environment, we would have a better quality of life.
Common Household Pollutants
It is important to know which indoor pollutants are the most common in order to improve indoor air quality. Many researches have been done on the air pollution that is generated inside the household over the past few years. The majority of these pollutants are caused by advancements in the developing world. Though useful in everyday life, these advances can be harmful if used for long periods of time.
- Fuel Combustion Appliances
The term combustion refers to a chemical reaction involving oxygen and substances that produce heat as a result. There are many items under this category such as space heaters, lighting, and stoves. Cooking is definitely one of the most common sources of indoor pollution and is often neglected. Cooking with solid fuels, such as biomass or coal, exposes us to the harsh chemicals that are produced when they are burned. We can improve the air quality in places around these appliances, lessening air pollution in those areas, by improving the air quality.
- Insufficient Ventilation
Many homes have an exhaust hood above the stove, or exhaust fans installed in the kitchen. In addition, it is essential to have sufficient ventilation such as windows in order to completely remove indoor pollutants. However, if you live in heavily polluted urban areas, this could be a cause for concern.
- Cigarette Smoke
Smoking is the leading cause of lung diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking is not only detrimental to the smoker, but also the others in the household. That’s why smoking is discouraged, especially around younger children.
It has taken years and years to find an appropriate solution to this problem. In 1989, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration carried out a study on indoor plants for air quality.
NASA on Indoor Plants
Developed by Dr. B.C. Wolverton and his team in 1989, the study was followed by an update a few years later.
During the study, greenhouse plants were placed into chambers with harmful aerosol chemicals like ammonia, xylene, formaldehyde, and benzene. Several plants were found to remove up to 90% of the dangerous chemicals from the air after 24 hours of exposure. During the lifetime of the plants, they were able to take harmful gases from the environment and sequester them internally. In this experiment, some of these chemicals were broken down while others were stored in the plant. Based on this experiment, plants can possibly assist in cleaning harmful smoke from cigarettes and other major sources.
The following plants were found to be most effective in eliminating indoor carcinogens during this experiment:
- Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
- Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
The research indicates that larger plants produce more oxygen and toxins will be absorbed more effectively.
Why We Need to Improve Air Quality in Our Homes?
Oxygenating your indoor air is essential to improving air quality. Having clean and fresh air is essential as well. According to estimates, 25,000 Americans die each year from air pollution. Short term exposure to toxins in the air can have detrimental effects on lung health, long term effects can be more problematic.
You have an obligation, as a homeowner, to improve living conditions as well as protect yourself from any impending harm.
Three particular houseplants that provide more oxygen in the living space mentioned in a study done in New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, help improve the quality of air. After being diagnosed with a serious allergy to the pollution in his city, Kamal Meattle gave a TED talk discussing the improvement he personally experienced by living with these three plants. His lung capacity has dropped to 70%, and he was literally dying from inhaling more toxins from the very polluted air.
- Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
It is recommended that at least four shoulder high plants per person are present in the living space in order to be effective.
- Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
It is commonly known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and has a wide range of sizes. It is the cheapest to maintain of all the plants. As a result, it has been regarded as an excellent bedroom plant, as it is quite efficient at converting Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen even while sleeping. A minimum of six to eight knee high plants will be needed per person, says Meattle.
- Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum)
Because of its excellent ability to absorb volatile chemicals, this plant is of great use where there is a lot of air pollution.
By plant these three plants in your home, fresh air can literally be grown. Meattle says the amount of oxygen you can get from these three plants would keep you alive if you were trapped in a sealed space.
In a 50,000ft2 building for 300 occupants, Meattle and his team used over 1,200 plants. The experiment was conducted for 15 years. The results show a person’s blood-oxygen level increases by 1% after spending 10 hours in this special facility. Having achieved a lot of success, the team expanded their space and added more plants so they can help more people live cleaner.
Other Common Houseplants that Give Off Oxygen
There are thousands of other plants that help improve the quality of air, but which do not give off as much oxygen as the three above.
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
A lot of attention is required to keep the plant flourishing; regular watering and misting is required.
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp)
Plants such as these need well-draining soil. Keeping your Peace Lily indoors in a slightly shady and warm area would be ideal for its growth as it thrives in a lot of moisture and indirect sunlight.
- Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
NASA conducted a study on this flowering plant. Because of its small size, it produces a large amount of oxygen and it is very efficient in removing toxic chemicals like benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.
- Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica)
A recent study by botanical experts has shown that bigger plants provide you with more oxygen. Neem trees can grow to 20 meters tall and have lush green leaves that are excellent for absorbing oxygen.
- True Aloe (Aloe vera)
It is more commonly known for its medicinal properties, but Aloe Vera is also a great air purifying plant, releasing oxygen all day and night as opposed to most plants, which only produce oxygen during the day.
By having one of these houseplants in your home, you are not only adding valuable elements to your indoor garden, but also maintaining the quality of air in the home, keeping you away from fatal diseases.
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