Looking for deepest-breathing houseplants!

Lyn Wilkins LynW at cre.canon.co.uk
Fri Aug 2 09:46:19 EST 1996

Brian Watson wrote:
> Bob & Sandie Flett <bosin at iap.net.au> wrote:
> >> Seriously, I've seen it said in various gardening mags that houseplants
> >> (spider plants were mentioned specifically, I remember) can remove
> >> various pollutants from the air, apart from CO2. Sounds well worth the
> >> gamble if you live in a city!
> >>
> >> --
> >> Alison Brooks
> >>
> I seem to remember this being featured on a "Tommorrows World"
> program. A company had developed a 'turbo' air cleaner. First they
> tested the gasses present in an office and then selected from their
> database of plants the ones that would most effectively reduce the
> pollutants that were present. These plants were then supplied in a pot
> than had an extractor fan underneath. The fan sucked air through the
> soil. Apparrently the soil acts as a first point of adsorbtion. The
> pollutants were dissolved in the water or oils within the soil. As the
> plant takes up these solutions it 'digests' the pollutants into
> harmless byproducts.
> Technically of course CO2 is not a pollutant but a natural point in
> the carbon cycle of life. It only really causes a problem when it
> collects in high concentrations in the upper atmosphere causing the
> Greenhouse effect. The real inner city pollutants such as Carbon
> Monoxide, Sulphure Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide are truely harmful to
> life and are the ones you should be looking for plants to remove.
> Does anyone have a list of plants together with the pollutants they
> are best at removing?
> Brian
> -------------
> Brian Watson
> All opinions expressed are my own and  not my employers
> Brian.Watson at RuberAstic.co.uk
> -------------------------------

NASA and ALCA(Associated Landscape Contractors of America) produced a 
report quite some time ago. They used various plants in their trials 
including:- Dracaena, Chrysanthemum, Gerbera, Ficus, Hedera and 

Plants were housed in sealed experimental chambers, where they were 
exposed to the chemicals listed below for 24 hours.  Air samples were 
then drawn off, and showed between 5 and 70% reduction. 

The chemicals that the plants were exposed to were Formaldehyde, Benzene 
and Trichlorethylene. 

They then completed the same experiment with defoliated plants, and the 
dracaena removed more benzene than the plants with foliage.!

The conclusion was "This suggests that the plant roots and their 
associated micro-organisms are the major pathway for chemical removal, 
at least in this study. ..."  

"...for the soil to be highly effective in removing indoor air 
pollutants, plants must be growing in this soil."

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