Between work, home and other buildings, U.S. citizens are indoors about 90 percent of the time. This means that indoor air quality is one of the most critical environmental factors in human health. But, a 2017 EPA report asserts that indoor air quality is among the very worst of human health threats. The agency’s research finds that indoor air pollution is typically 200 to 500 percent more polluted than outdoor air, and it’s even worse in many buildings.
Indoor air pollutants are linked to a range of health conditions, such as asthma, allergies, increased COPD symptoms, fatigue, headaches, skin rashes, and a number of other health issues. Indoor air pollutants can include everything from cleaning and craftworks chemicals, VOC emissions from modern synthetic construction and furniture finishes, grooming products, particulates from cooking and many others.
The Lung Institute suggests that air quality in building interiors should be managed in order protect human health. So what’s a low cost way to make a difference? Adding indoor plants.
Indoor plants are a natural measure you can take to help improve indoor air quality at work or home without any significant interior overhauls. Plants generate the oxygen that we humans breathe, and absorb the CO2 that we emit. This dual benefit that plants deliver to humans makes them an ideal resource for increasing workplace air quality.
NASA published its own study on the effects of indoor plants for cleaning the air in space stations back in 1989. The research found that all plants contribute to cleaning indoor air. However, the study discovered that some plants are more effective in helping eliminate certain chemical contaminants, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene.
Furthermore, poor air quality can cause a number of health effects that can negatively impact workers’ productivity and attendance. It can have a direct effect on both physical and mental functioning and overall efficiency. For employees with chronic respiratory conditions, improving air quality in the workplace can be a more serious need.
But fixing air quality starts with picking the right plants for your space.
Here are the 9 plants you should add to your office that produce lots of healthful, productivity-boosting oxygen.
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
- Money plant (Pachira aquatica)
- Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
- Areca palm or butterfly palm (Dypsis lutescens)
- Chinese evergreens (Algaonemas)
- Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
- Aloe vera (Aloe perfoliata L)
- Snake plant, also called “mother-in-law’s tongue” (S. trifasciata laurentii)
The lush, full leaves of the peace lily remove many types of chemical emissions from indoor air. In fact, this plant is ranked as the most effective at removing toxins like ammonia, acetone, formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene. Additionally, it increases indoor humidity levels, which is an extra benefit in workplaces located in regions with dry climates.
Recommended Care: This potted plan requires minimal sunlight and very little care.
This tropical tree is popular for indoor use. Varieties of the species include a tree with a single trunk or another subspecies with more exotic multiple braided trunks. The weeping fig is effective in clearing chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde, and xylene from indoor air.
Recommended Care: The Weeping Fig thrives in spaces with partial to full sunlight. Water routinely.
NASA featured the money plant in its study of plants and air quality. This exotic plant proved to be efficient in helping clear indoor air pollutants, including harmful chemicals formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene. However, the money plant’s leaves are toxic to small children, dogs, and cats if ingested. So it’s best suited for the office, anyway.
Recommended Care: The money plant does well in indirect light. Water approximately once per week. Keep this plant out of the reach of children and pets.
The supple rubber plant is one of the most desirable of indoor plant collections. It also ranks high on the list of plants for clearing formaldehyde from indoor air. Perfect for larger offices, this plant can grow as tall as eight feet in conducive indoor environments.
Recommended Care: The rubber plant prefers bright but indirect sunlight. Water routinely. Spray water on leaves during dry weather periods.
The large, tender, fan-like branches of the areca palm make it a favorite indoor decorative plant. It’s also a very effective aid in helping clean indoor air. The dangerous chemicals it helps remove include formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene.
Recommended Care: The areca palm grows well in filtered sunlight. Watered frequently.
One of the most popular plants for indoor use is the Chinese evergreen. The plant is a relatively high oxygen producer, and it’s effective in clearing formaldehyde, benzene, and other harmful chemicals from indoor air.
Recommended Care: This plant lives well in shaded spaces. Water as needed to keep soil moist.
The colorful gerbera daisy plant is a popular species for use as decorative garden features. The plant is also effective in generating high amounts of oxygen during the night. It removes such harmful chemicals as trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde.
Recommended Care: This plant thrives in bright sunlight through spring, summer and fall seasons, but use more indirect light in the winter. Water routinely, to keep soil moist.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant with supple, but strong appendages. It’s ranked among the most effective plants in helping improve indoor air quality, effective in clearing the carcinogens formaldehyde and benzene from indoor air. This plant releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide at night. (Its sap is also used for topical treatment of burns as well as treatment for some internal ailments.)
Recommended Care: The Aloe Vera plant thrives in sunny indoor spaces. Avoid over-watering.
The snake plant is among the most effective plants in promoting indoor air quality, and can be found in the JotForm office. The long, slender pointed leaves are strong nighttime oxygen producers. This plant is also helpful in removing chemicals such as formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, toluene, and xylene from the air.
Recommended Care: The snake plant is very hearty and low maintenance. It thrives in low light and indirect sunlight. Water every other week.
Where plants fit into strategies for improving workplace air quality
There are many ways to maintain healthier indoor air quality, such as improving ventilation, avoiding use of VOC finishes, choosing furniture made of natural materials, using high-efficiency air filters on your HVAC system and/or air-purification equipment, sealing around windows and entry doors, diligently dusting and cleaning, using strong exhaust systems in areas where air pollution is generated and other methods.
Adding indoor plants remains a very appealing option for promoting healthier indoor air in office buildings and other workplaces. Plants deliver great value, performing double duty as air cleaners and natural, high-quality aesthetic features. For example, six to eight snake plants, or four shoulder-height areca palms, or just three 18-inch money plants produce enough oxygen to support one adult human in a sealed room. Plus, the room will look great dressed with all the plants.
For business managers looking to improve the workplace environment, increasing workplace air quality is an important start. The most effective approach to improving indoor air quality combines implementation of some of the technologies mentioned above, routine cleaning of surfaces and vents, and the addition of high-oxygen-producing plants.