Purify Your Indoor Air On A Budget

by heather

Thanks to rising awareness, many people are becoming concerned with their home’s indoor air quality. As well we should be; the EPA claims that indoor pollution is often tens or hundreds of times higher than outdoor pollution, and most people spend 90% of their time indoors.

In the winter this can be dangerous, especially for children, the elderly, and for those suffering from lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, or lung cancer.

The School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University says the same thing: in wintertime we’re sealed inside our homes with the furnace running. There is very little air exchange, since we don’t have the windows open, which leads to increasing levels of pollution in our homes.

Our first instinct might be to go buy an air purifier. But, these are pricy. One look on Amazon.com and you’ll see that air purifiers start around $100 and go up to $500 or more.

So, how can we purify our air on a budget? Well, we’ve got to turn to Mother Nature for that.

Plants For Your Health

NASA conducted a fascinating 2-year study in conjunction with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America back in the late ’80’s (I know it was a long time ago, but it’s NASA; their research is sound).

What they found was amazing; they discovered that certain indoor plants purify the air better than others. And, they discovered that some plants take specific pollutants out of the air more so than other plants.

What does this mean for us? Well, it means that by taking a trip to the nursery we can purify our air just as good as a high-dollar appliance.

Houseplants are cheaper, more appealing, and they don’t suck energy.

What I’m going to do is look at the three most common indoor air pollutants, and then list the plants that have been proven to cleanse them from the air.

Nasty Pollutant #1: Formaldehyde

The EPA reports that elevated levels of formaldehyde can cause watery eyes, nausea, headaches, and difficulty breathing. Formaldehyde is found in pressed-wood products (think IKEA furniture or new kitchen cabinets), new clothing, plywood, new carpets, some foam insulation, and some household cleaners.

What plants should you buy to purify your air if you suspect high levels of formaldehyde?

  • Bamboo Palm
  • Peace Lily
  • Mother-In-Law Tongue
  • Green Spider Plant
  • Dracaena Warneckei
  • Golden Pathos

Nasty Pollutant #2: Benzene

Benzene is another carcinogen (yay for us) that’s commonly found in many of the products we use in our home.

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that benzene can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and unconsciousness. Long-term exposure to benzene is much more serious: leukemia, bone marrow problems, and anemia.

The Department of Health and Human Services also says that benzine is widely used in the United States; it ranks in the top 20 for most produced chemicals. It’s commonly found in plastics, rubber products, dyes, detergents, and pesticides, to name a few. It can also be put into the air by cigarette smoke.

Plants that filter benzine from the air include:

  • Peace Lily
  • Bamboo Palm
  • English Ivy
  • Gerbera Daisies
  • Pot Mums
  • Mother-In-Law Tongue

Nasty Pollutant #3: Trichloroethylene

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Trichloroethylene, or TCE for short, is a colorless liquid that’s commonly found in adhesives, paint removers, and spot removers. Because it evaporates so quickly, it’s commonly found in the air.

Breathing in TCE can cause headaches, poor coordination, dizziness, lung irritation, and difficulty concentrating. Long-term exposure can cause nerve, liver, and kidney damage, impact fetal development in pregnant women, and even result in death.

What plants will cleanse TCE from your air?

  • Bamboo Palm
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Peace Lily
  • Gerbera Daisy
  • Marginata

How Many Plants Should You Have?

So, hopefully you’ve got some of these plants on hand. If not, you might want to plan a trip to the nursery; I know I’m going! I had a few of these on hand (which, after researching this article, I hastily relocated to my office where I spend most of my time), but NASA recommends that you have a variety of different plants on hand to give you the best purification.

If your home is 2,000 square feet or more then NASA says you’ll need 15 plants, all in six inch pots or larger. Most plants that require low indoor light will really help cleanse your air, but make sure you have some that have been listed here.

Other Tips To Purify Indoor Air

First of all, try to open your windows at least once per day, just for a few minutes. I know it’s getting cold out for most of us, but it will let in some fresh air.
If you have the money, get your air ducts professionally cleaned. I spent $300 last winter getting mine cleaned, and it was the BEST $300 I ever spent. I had been so sick with allergies since buying my house, and finally thought that it could be dirty ducts. When the cleaning crew opened up the ductwork by my furnace they found 6-8 inches of dust down there (which we had been breathing in every time the heat kicked on).

My home is over 100 years old, and they think this was their first cleaning. They cleaned every duct in my house, and the results? I felt great! My sickness evaporated, and I had to dust a whole lot less than before.

Trust me, it’s worth the money to do this. Click here to read a great article put out by the EPA on why you should think about getting your air ducts cleaned.

Also, invest in a good air filter for your furnace, ideally one that traps indoor air pollutants.

I use a 3M High Performance Filter. The cheapest I’ve found it is $16 at Target, and I usually change it out every two months while the heat is running.

Yes, it’s more expensive than most other filters, but I truly feel that it’s worth it. The people who cleaned my ducts said this is the best filter on the market, and really helps keep indoor air pollution down.

I’m all about cutting costs and saving money, but I believe that there are some places where it pays to splurge. And, investing in good filters is definitely worth it to me!

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{ 3 comments }

Candy Odglen July 25, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Thank you. I found your article both interesting and informative and will be implementing your advice by getting some of the house plants in the very near future.

ELVAIXSA October 13, 2009 at 11:29 am

This is so important for everyone to know. I’m so happy that you posted this very important and informative information. I’m going to buy some house plants as soon as I leave work. Thanks so much for the great information. I’ll pass it along to my friends.

Rebecca October 21, 2009 at 7:58 pm

I appreciate the time you put into the research and writing the article for those of us who know there is a problem, but don’t know where to start getting all the information, you made it very easy for us to take some simple steps to healthier living. Thank you! I will share with others.

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