Bringing the Outdoors In

I love it when I hear television interior designers talk about “bringing the outdoors in” and greening up a home with houseplants. Decorating your house with lush green plants does so much more than spruce up your living room. Houseplants are magnificent air purifiers, and they’re a great, inexpensive resource for reducing indoor pollutants.

I’m amazed at how effective plants are at filtering toxins from the air. The plant filters the chemicals, absorbing them through the leaves then breaking the contaminants down with the bacteria associated with their roots. As adults, we spend about 80 percent of each day indoors, and our kids might even spend more! The air in our homes can contain many volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals that release fumes. VOCs are found in many solvents, cleaning products, air fresheners, polishes, adhesives, paints and carpets. Studies have shown that young children exposed to high levels of airborne VOCs were four times more likely to develop asthma, so I’m strongly in favor of anything we can do to reduce these toxins in our homes.

One study revealed that one six-inch plant per 100 square feet of living area is a good rule of thumb for greening your home. The healthier the plant, the more air it can filter.

Other Resources:
Parent Picks: How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office
DrGreene Top Ten: The Top Ten Air-Filtering Plants

Published on: March 19, 2009
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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