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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Breathe Green

If you’re a houseplant lover, you probably know there are many benefits to having plants in your home. They provide decorating diversity, offer a touch of nature, have a grounding and relaxing effect, and even cleanse the air we breathe. That’s right, houseplants such as ferns, palms, and lilies actually pull pollutants out of the air.

Don’t Hold Your Breath Think the air in your house doesn’t need detoxifying? Think again. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, along with a variety of other pollutants are so pervasive in the common household that indoor air is now considerd to be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air!

What in your house could be emitting VOCs and other pollutants? Plenty. VOCs include nasty chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene, classified by the EPA as known carcinogens, and are found in common household items like plastic bags, computer ink, pressed-wood furniture, commercial household cleansers, carpeting, even cosmetics.

Plants to the Rescue Many of these every day items have become such a part of our lives that eliminating them seems impossible. Thank goodness we have plants! Back in the 1980’s NASA discovered the fern’s ability to cleanse the air; in fact, researchers discovered 50 types of regular old houseplants can absorb VOCs and actually remove pollutants from the air.

Experts suggest planning one houseplant per 100 square feet in your home. Put one next to your printer or on top of a particleboard bookshelf. Though plants alone can’t completely detoxify your atmosphere, they can help. In addition to using houseplants, consider curbing or eliminating your use of chemical cleansers and pesticides in the home. There are several products on the market that make potting and caring for your plants easier, more organic, and prettier. For ideas on how to arrange houseplants from a renowned feng shui expert, visit

For not much money at all, you can get some good green plants in your house, benefit from the added color in your home, and perhaps best of all, breathe green!

Former NASA scientist Bill Wolverton’s Top Five Pollution Fighting Plants:

  1. The Peace Lily absorbs alcohols, trichloroethylene (a dry-cleaning chemical), benzene and formaldehyde. Keep this white blooming plant in a semi-sunny spot with even, moist soil.

  2. The Areca Palm takes on VOCs found in paint like xylene and toluene. This green, fast-growing plant likes a semi-sunny environment with consistently moist soil.

  3. The Dracaena (or Janet Craig) soaks up trichloroethylene. This dark green treelike beauty likes a semi-shady spot with soil that’s not too wet.

  4. The Weeping Fig absorbs formaldehyde. This type of ficus likes a full-sun location and moist soil.

  5. The Boston Fern ranks best at absorbing formaldehyde. This plant likes it semi-sunny with a daily mist, plus some extra fertilizer during winter months. Added bonus: it adds humidity.

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