NASA Guide to Air-Filtering Houseplants

Connor Macdonald's picture
By Connor Macdonald
NASA air filtering plants

Houseplants are not something you would typically associate with NASA, but in the late ‘80s the US government agency joined forces with the Associated Contractors of America (ALCA), to determine the most effective indoor plants for removing toxic agents from the air.

The study, led by Dr. B. C. Wolverton, found that some plants were effective at filtering out the likes of benzene, ammonia and formaldehyde from the air, helping to neutralise the effects of sick building syndrome.

The aptly named ‘Florist’s Mum’ proved most effective, alongside the Peace Lily, both shown to filter out amounts of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia.

While the research does date back over 25 years ago, the findings are have stood the test of time, and are regarded as the most comprehensive and accurate results to date.

NASA Guide to Air Filtering Houseplants

What’s In Our Air?

Like most chemicals, the adverse health effects you may encounter depend on several factors, including the amount to which you are exposed, the way you are exposed, the duration of exposure and the form of the chemical. Below are common symptoms associated with each toxic agent.

Trichloroethylene

  • Symptoms associated with short term exposure include excitement, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting followed by drowsiness and coma.

Formaldehyde

  • Symptoms associated with short term exposure include irritation to nose, mouth and throat, and in severe cases, swelling of the larynx and lungs.

Benzene

  • Symptoms associated with short term exposure include irritation to eyes, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, increase in heart rate, headaches, confusion and in some cases can result in unconsciousness.

Xylene

  • Symptoms associated with short term exposure include irritation to mouth and throat, dizziness, headache, confusion, heart problems, liver and kidney damage and coma.

Ammonia

  • Symptoms associated with short term exposure include eye irritation, coughing, sore throat.

 

For optimal air-filtering, NASA recommends placing at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.

Please note: Several of these plants are known to be toxic to cats, dogs and other pets. If you are a pet owner, please do check the toxicity of plants before introducing them to your home.

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