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Disclaimer: The information on is intended to improve your knowledge about herbs and their benefits. Articles on this website are not intended to replace medical treatment from your doctor. Always consult your doctor before starting a new treatment regimen.

Let Us Keep The Air Clean Inside Our Home And Offices

By Dr. Ashraf Girgis ND

The issue of the environment has been brought to the forefront lately due to the Trump administration’s reluctance to adhere to the Paris accord. But, leaving politic du jour aside, air pollution contributes to 7 million deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization in 2014. Imagine 7 million deaths: this is much bigger damage and killings that any terrorism can inflict. According to some estimates, America spends somewhere close to $1.2 trillion in wars fighting terrorism. The issue of the environment is for the most part minimized or ignored, or sometimes even accentuated. The data emerging in the 1980s from the NSAS as well as the EPA shows that indoor pollution is as bad as outdoor. The term is known as Sick Building Syndrome.

Toxins affect everyone in society-we all breath the same air. Sometimes it is better if we don’t live or work in fancy high-rise buildings in big cities that are polluted. These buildings are often filled with toxins circulating in the air around or inside our living environments. While we may not have much choice at our homes or offices, we can still take a few simple steps to lessen the toxins in our living environments.

We do know that our furniture at home and our office equipment at work exudes toxins called volatile organic compounds (VOC) and organic compounds (benzene and trichloroethylene or TCE). Toxins are also emitted from our cleaning products (phenols) and our gardening pesticides (radon). We breathe in other toxins such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in our home environments.

Other VOCs come from sources which range from carpets to types of flooring to paints used inside. These can all be hazardous to our health and, in the long term, can lead to inflammatory diseases. Among these VOCs are Formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, ethylbenzene, toluene, etc. So far there have been 900 VOCs identified inside buildings.

Before you get exasperated and claim all your weird symptoms as a result of these VOCs, we can talk about the good news. We can lower the numbers of these toxins by taking various steps. I have mentioned a few of these steps in my article published previously. Here, I would like to talk about one of my favorite ways to help to clean the air you are breathing: the use of various beautiful plants. These plants can help create easy and beautiful environments that are as good for your soul as they are for your health.

In 1989, the EPA in the United States Congress informed Americans of the existence of 900 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in public buildings. A similarly high degree of toxins was discovered by NASA in their closed spaces and the environment in which they breathed. For example, in 1973, NASA identified 107 volatile organic compounds emitted from the syntactic material inside the Skylab III spacecraft.

According to NASA scientist Dr. B.C. Wolverton, who has been looking into indoor pollution for more than a decade, there are 50 plants that can reduce the amount of toxins and pollutants in the air at home. According to these NASA scientists, plants can live and grow through the process of photosynthesis – the continued exchanges of gases through their leaves and roots with their environments. Common gas exchanges are carbon dioxide and water vapor. Plants can also take in other gases through tiny openings called stomata. Interestingly, we have learned in the last decades that microorganisms in our guts also play a significant role in our overall health. Similarly, it seems that microorganisms in plant leaves and roots are important to the breakdown of some harmful chemicals existing in the air.

In addition, Pennsylvania State University published in HortTechnology – the American Society of Horticultural Science's journal – the results of a study measuring the effects of three common household plants and their impact on indoor ozone level. They chose spider plants, snake plants, and golden pothos because of their easy maintenance. The result showed that all three plants equally lowered the level of ozone indoors.

So let us look at few of these beautiful plants that we can easily grow at home to keep our air nice and clean. Relaxing around these oxygen-producing plants helps our physical well-being and soothes our nature-loving souls, easing our minds. NASA’s recommendation is using one plant per 100 sq. ft to clean the air.

1. Golden Pothos, Epipremnum aureum

Golden Pothos is a plant used commonly in households. It belongs to the Araceae family and is native of Polynesia and Morea. It is very easy to maintain. It survives neglect yet provides you with clean air by removing carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from the air. Maybe that is why some people feel less irritation in their eyes when growing golden pothos indoors. One can grow numerous golden pothos plants by simply cutting the stem and placing it in the water. After it grows roots, you can place it in potting soil. Temperature is best kept between 60-75. Golden pothos should be kept away from children due to its toxicity if digested. Golden pothos is currently grown all over the world because it grows so easily indoors and outdoors. It can be very invasive to other species of plants. It also does not need too much water; once a week is usually enough to keep it healthy and growing.

Golden Pothos

Heartleaf philodendron
Photo by David J. Stang

2. Heartleaf philodendron

Philodendron is a large species of flowering plant belonging to the Arceus family. They are native to the tropics of the Americas and the West Indies. According to World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, there are about 486 various species of plant. They can be grown as inside or outside plants; a temperature between 60 to 75 is required. It is best to prevent overwatering but to keep the soil moist. They are easy to grow, even in dark conditions. They shed leaves which are usually big and imposing and have a heart shape. Because the exchange of gas takes place through the leaves, philodendrons are on top of lists of plants which decrease levels of formaldehyde and are good at absorbing Xylene.

3. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Also known as airplane plant, this plant seems to be native of African countries but has been spread all over the world and used as a household plant. It is a flowering plant that grows in temperatures of 60-90 degrees. According to NASA, it fights pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and carbon monoxide. As a solvent, it is used in the leather, rubber, and printing industries. It is a plant that is easy to grow, as long as it gets indirect light. You can take one of the spider plants and place it in a new pot, depanding the number of your plants.

Spider Plant

Peace lily

4. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)

Peace lily is not a real lily; it belongs to the family Araceae. There are, so far, about 40 species known. The plant originated in the Americas and South Asia. According to NASA scientists, peace lily can prevent air toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. It is fairly easy to maintain (although I killed mine, by unintentionally watering it with hot water - ouch!). It needs indirect sunlight and a temperature of no less than 55 degrees. You need to keep the soil moist, and if its leaves are yellow, it could indicate too much sun. If they look down, it means it is thirsty. Peace lily can be an irritant to humans and animals if ingested, causing skin irritations and ejective discomfort.

5. Florist's chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum belongs to the family Araceae. It originated in East Asia and China. In China, Chrysanthemum is used as an herb and added to rare stews to add flavor. Chinese Chrysanthemum represents cheerfulness, while the red Chrysanthemum stands for I Love, and yellow Chrysanthemum symbolizes slighted love. It has many different meanings in various countries; in Japan, it represents the emperors’ family. It has many medicinal effects in addition to its culinary use, and it can also be used as an insecticide. I will try to expand our discussion on its health benefits some other time.

We do know, according to NASA scientists, that it is a very good plant to clean the air from various toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and ammonia. This plant needs lots of light.

Florist's chrysanthemum

English Ivy

6. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

English Ivy belongs to Araliaceae family. It is native of western Asia and Europe which grows both indoors and outdoors. It tolerates rough weather well. Outdoor, it can be an invasive species. In Oregon, its sale and cultivation is not permitted due to its invasive character. In Washington, it is considered a harmful weed, because it spreads and overtakes all the other plants around. If you would like to grow a covering outside of your old building or your fences, it makes it look very beautiful and attractive. However, be careful in keeping it under control. I find the look of a building covered with English Ivy very beautiful. It reminds me of our nursing school in Iran. English ivy is also very easy to grow as an indoor plant. According to NASA, it is one of the top species of plants to clean the air from toxins such as formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, and xylene. It grows in moderate temperature and medium light.

We previously published an article from about ways to clean the air. Please feel free to visit the site.

Other plants to use are Bamboo palm, rubber tree, Boston fern, corn plant, lady palm, the weeping fig, snake plant, Red-Edged Dracaena, aloe, Kimberley Queen fern, elephant ear, Gerber Daisy, Chinese bamboo, daisy, and dragon tree (Dracaena marginata).



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