Learning the Truth: Can Plants Clean the Air?

Female in room full of plants

In 1989, a prominent space agency did some experiments and research on how plants affected the air. Most of them found out that plants were able to clean up the atmosphere from any cancer-causing chemicals. But there’s one part of the research paper that has been making headlines: household plants can help purify the air.

Since the turn towards the 21st century, households have been turning towards sustainable living. Naturally, the leafier and greener the plant is, the more effective it is when purifying the air. But as decades passed, some scientists would challenge this notion, with some scientists claiming it’s only a myth.

But can houseplants like snake plants, rubber plants, and ferns purify the air from pollution?

Benefits of Having Houseplants

Even though there’s an ongoing debate on whether plants can purify our surroundings or not, we still have to look at the potential benefits of having houseplants around.

They can scrub the air from any toxins. However, what are the other benefits of having houseplants at home or close to your workstation?

Relieves Eye Strain — When you’re typing away on your keyboard while you’re at the office, you might notice that your vision might blur when you’re staring at a dimly lit monitor for 8 hours straight. In some psychological evaluations, workers who have been staring at computer monitors before looking at leafy plants will have

Reduces Stress — Let’s face it: our body is not meant to stay put and meander around in the four corners of the office with dim blue lights buzzing overhead. Hallways that are made out of plastic and steel can be unsightly if that’s what is always around you. Having a bit of green on your life in the form of houseplants can release those natural antidepressants that you have in your body. For a moment, you’ll remember the sweet smell of the great outdoors.

Improves Overall Aesthetic — Lastly, it’s a simple and cost-effective way of decorating your office or your home without having to spend much on classy tiles, windows, or any fancy furniture.

If you’re concerned solely with adequate means of ensuring that your air is clean and breathable, you might want to invest in a well-ventilated home instead. A functional and efficient ventilation system can help with the circulation of oxygen and ensure that there will be no health complications in your area.

At specific points, ventilation systems will get debris that can clog up shafts and cause dust particles to form. Services like duct cleaning can mitigate the build-up of dust and molds on your ventilation shafts and airways.

Fact or Fiction?

The paper that was conducted by NASA would be the primary source that claims that plants can clean the air. However, most of the paper’s data were considered biased, with skeptics backing up their claim by saying that most of the information was altered to fit a more positive outcome.

The paper made the following points:

  • Lab conditions were ignored when the experiments were carried out, which compromised the ability to have a controlled environment.
  • The numbers were rounded off to a more suitable result.
  • Most of the chemicals were deems as pollutants.
  • Ignored the conclusions of the scientists that were working on the project and omitting several factors such as microbes and filters made of charcoal.

indoor plants by the window

However, if we’re going to look at more recent papers, some experiments conducted in office buildings found that plants placed on one area had a lower amount of particles in the air than the other building. If this is the case, then plants do have a limited effect on air quality.

In summary, the 1989 paper that says that plants can clean the air is not feasible since there are loopholes in the research. While plants have a limited degree of ability to clean the air, it’s not as effective as more active means. One thing is sure: more studies need to be done in a controlled environment with any preconceived biases that might affect the study.

Houseplants do have a multitude of different benefits to your home and workplace. Not only does it help relieve stress, but it’s also an excellent way to beautify your home in an environmentally-friendly way. When it comes to purifying the air, it can clean the air, but only to an extent. Nevertheless, there’s no hurt in having the right amount of plants around your home and office.

It’s important to note that household plants should not be an alternative to more effective means of purifying the air in the same vein that herbs are not a guaranteed treatment compared to actual medicine for health conditions.

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