Oops. I do rigorous fact-checking before publishing anything but it seems I got this wrong. Research now shows there’s no point putting plants in your home to purify the air.
In my first book, published in 1996, I stated, ‘We can benefit from research funded by NASA to discover ways of cleansing the air in space capsules. They discovered in the course of this research that several ordinary types of houseplants have the ability to cleanse many of the most common pollutants from the air, including formaldehyde.’
The research was headed by B.C. Wolverton, author of How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office, in which he listed all the plants he had tested and their purifying capabilities.
Why plants don’t purify the air in our homes
Since then, 195 further studies have been done. They confirm that some types of plants can indeed remove the toxins of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the air. BUT ONLY IN AN AIRTIGHT ENVIRONMENT such as a space capsule.
The buildings we occupy here on Earth are not like that at all. They have doors and windows that open to let in air. They have crevices through which drafts can pass. They are designed to have a circulation of air. This means that to purify the air of a room measuring 10 feet square, you would need somewhere between 100 to 1,000 plants, depending on the type of pollutants and the efficiency of the plants used to remove them.
To put this in perspective, 10 square feet (3 square metres) is the average size of a single bedroom. With so many plants in there, it would be difficult to find anywhere to put the bed!
Electric air purifiers
So many apologies to anyone who went out and bought a Peace Lily on the strength of my recommendation. I bought quite a few myself and they are beautiful plants. I hope you are enjoying them as much as I’ve enjoyed mine. But it seems they are only decorative.
Indoor air pollution has become a hot topic in recent years so research is ongoing to find affordable solutions. At the moment, if the air in your home is polluted or you suffer from allergies, the best I can suggest is to invest in a reliable electric air purifier, and be sure to get the kind that removes VOCs as well as dust, mould and other airborne pollutants. You’d think all air purifiers would do this but in fact many don’t.
A popular benefit of houseplants is a myth
Creating Conscious Space online course
Like to read more articles like this?
Subscribe to my newsletters to receive news, articles and information about upcoming online courses by email. And I promise you – no junk mail ever.
Copyright © Karen Kingston 2019