Houseplants & Indoor Air Quality

HouseplantsSome of the air pollutants are 100 times more concentrated in our homes than they are outside.  We need that quality air to support our respiratory system and our overall health. Some sociological studies show that the average amount of time a person living in the US spends indoors is almost 92% of their day.  Therefore, those that are employed, spend 2% of their time outside and 6% in transit between home and work.

Because of the amount of time spent indoors, the quality of the air you breathe is very important to your long-term health.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that poor indoor air quality is one of the top public health risks we all face each and every day.  The poor quality air is linked to a number of different health effects that might be experienced immediately, or several years later.  Thus, understanding and controlling the indoor air pollution by making small changes, may help reduce your health risks.

You may view your indoor air as clean because you don’t detect chemical smells or smog in the air or office, but the air in your home might be more dangerous to your health than outdoors. In fact, the levels of indoor air pollution at home may be two to five times higher than outside. Some pollutant that you breathe can even be upwards of 100 times more concentrated inside. The newer homes and buildings are built with reducing utility costs in mind.  Owners must make a decision purposely to ventilate the building or home for air exchange.  The cost of utilities may be lower without ventilation, but then you will increase your risk of health conditions.

Well, what is it that we are breathing that is harmful to us?  Some of the contributors to indoor pollution include:

  • Asbestos
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Building and paint products
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Carpets
  • Cleaning supplies & household chemicals
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites and dust
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lead
  • Pet dander
  • Radon
  • Secondhand smoke
  • VOCs
  • Fire retardants

Some short-term ways in which indoor air pollution impacts your health are worsening asthma, itchy watery eyes, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, scratchy throats and runny noses.  Usually these symptoms disappear in a couple hours after exposure is removed.  However, bronchitis, asthma and emphysema, accelerated aging of lung tissue and lung cancer, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, shortened lifespan and decreased cognitive function are long-term health conditions that don’t just resolve themselves by removal from the polluted environment.

One thing that can improve your home environment is the use of houseplants.  They are not only functional in the environment of your home or office but are also very functional decorations that brighten the space and improve your mood while cleaning your air.  Studies have indicated that potted plants improve your work and living space by reducing your blood pressure, improving your attention and productivity, lowering your anxiety levels and raising your job satisfaction.

Research has indicated that doing tasks around plants has led to a higher degree of accuracy and better results in the task performed.  Concentration and memory retention also improved. Plants remove pollutants because they absorb them through their leaves and roots.  After an investigation into plants and pollution, the 12 plants specified are Jade plants, Spider Plants, Scarlet Starts, Caribbean Tree Cactus, Dracaena, Ferns, Peace Lily, English Ivy, Ficus, Snake Plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue, Philodendron and Bamboo Palm.  Bring the green inside for your health!

-Dr Fredda Branyon

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