NASA did a study in 1989 on indoor air pollution and ascertained that certain plants brought indoors could help eliminate pollutants by absorbing them.

The study revealed that it took approximately one plant per 100 square feet of floor space, so in an average home of about 1,800 square feet, 18 plants would be needed. The study also revealed that houseplants can remove up to 87 percent of toxins in the home within 24 hours.

While some online sites suggest this is nonsense, respected scientists from Pennsylvania State University, the University of Georgia and other accredited institutions feel there is merit to the study.

It is a well-known fact that plants are proficient at absorbing gases through pores on the surface of their leaves. Those who study air-purification capacities of indoor plants have reported that plants can absorb many other gases in addition to carbon dioxide, which include a list of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in plastics, fabrics, pesticides, cosmetics, dish detergent, fabric softener, carpet cleaners, and cigarette smoke.

VOCs are linked to numerous acute conditions, including asthma and nausea, as well as chronic diseases such as cancer and respiratory illnesses. Some of the plants that are considered helpful include Japanese royal ferns, bamboo palm, Gerbera daisy, spider plants, Boston ferns, purple waffle plants, English ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, snake plants, mums, and peace lilies.

Plants basically do the opposite of what we do, they release oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, however at night, when photosynthesis stops, most plants switch things up and release carbon dioxide. The good news is that plants such as orchids, succulents, snake plants and bromeliads do the opposite and emit oxygen, making them perfect plants for the bedroom.

With that said it should be noted that houseplants can wear a disguise and actually aggravate allergies due to pollen and potted soil has the ability to grow fungus and mold. One measure that can be taken to avoid fungus and mold is to avoid over-watering, only water when the soil is dry. Keep plants in a well lit area and keep the air around them moving. Online sites give more suggestions for avoiding the mold problem with household plants.

As with anything that is linked to health matters, do research and be well-informed beforehand to make an educated decision.

— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise

appears in the Times-Journal weekday editions.

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