Indoor plants — a quick fix to improve indoor air quality

 In Air Quality, Blog

We often think about air qual­i­ty around the streets of Pitts­burgh, but how often do we think about indoor air quality?

Sum­mer is here and that means house­work and clean­ing is in full swing. How­ev­er, with clean­ing and house­work comes expo­sure to house­hold items that can poten­tial­ly degrade the air qual­i­ty in your home or building.

Stud­ies over the past sev­er­al years have shown that air qual­i­ty in homes, offices, and build­ings can be more pol­lut­ed than air indoors. The major­i­ty of indoor air pol­lu­tion comes from things we use on a dai­ly basis, such as deter­gents, sol­vents, glues/adhesives, aerosol sprays, dis­in­fec­tants, paint, and oth­er house­hold prod­ucts that emit volatile organ­ic com­pounds (VOCs). After some activ­i­ties, like paint strip­ping, VOC lev­els in a build­ing can be up to 1,000 times greater than out­door lev­els — even sev­er­al hours after the activ­i­ty has stopped. Oth­er pol­lu­tants such as smoke, mold, stored fuel, ani­mal dan­der, dust, wood stoves, gas stoves, fire­places, and pollen con­tribute to indoor air pol­lu­tion– poten­tial­ly caus­ing adverse health effects such as irri­ta­tion, aller­gies, dizzi­ness, and res­pi­ra­to­ry illnesses.

Because peo­ple spend 90% of their time indoors, it is impor­tant to min­i­mize expo­sure of these pol­lu­tants. Luck­i­ly there is an easy way to help reduce indoor air pol­lu­tion. The solu­tion? Grow indoor trees and plants! Plants puri­fy and fil­ter the air, remov­ing poten­tial­ly harm­ful pol­lu­tants. Not only will this help improve indoor air qual­i­ty, it adds aes­thet­ic appeal and a pop of green­ery to homes and buildings.

Indoor trees and plants that excel at improv­ing indoor air qual­i­ty include, but are not lim­it­ed to: weep­ing fig, Ficus Alii, are­ca palm, bam­boo palm, lady palm, rub­ber tree, spi­der plant, snake plant, and aloe vera. Many of these indoor plants are low-main­te­nance, small in stature, and can be found at your local plant nurs­ery or hard­ware store, mak­ing them per­fect for homes and buildings.


Do your research: while many indoor plants are gen­er­al­ly easy to care for, some may require more atten­tion than oth­ers or may not suit the size of your space. Some indoor plants require spe­cif­ic humid­i­ty lev­els and may need to be placed in direct (or indi­rect) sun­light. Be sure to research main­te­nance and care before purchasing.

Check for tox­i­c­i­ty: many indoor plants can be harm­ful to house­hold pets. Be sure to check ASP­CA’s web­site for more infor­ma­tion on plant toxicity.

Reg­u­lar­ly prune: Prun­ing helps ensure a healthy plant. If left unpruned, the plant may rapid­ly out­grow the pot and will need to be replant­ed. Prun­ing helps shape the plant and keeps it at a man­age­able size. Some indoor plants, like weep­ing figs, can grow to near­ly 10–12 feet if left untrimmed.

Vis­it the EPA’s Indoor Air Qual­i­ty web­site for more infor­ma­tion regard­ing indoor air quality.

(head­er image via)

Blog by: Jen Moreth

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