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Plants That Filter The Air You Breathe

The magazine Garden Design had an article in early or mid 1998, entitled, "Take Two Ivy and Call Me in the Morning." We're not going to reprint it here, because we don't have the copyright. But it's a fascinating magazine with a fascinating article from which we post the excerpts you see below. The article itself has far more information.

All Factfile Articles


Plants That Filter It Out

Benzene English ivy, Dracaena marginata, gerbera daisy, chrysanthemum, and peace lily
Formaldehyde Spider plant, bamboo palm, philodendron, and mother-in-law's tongue
Trichloroethylene Chrysanthemum, gerbera daisy, peace lily, and Dracaena deremensis

About indoor air

Below is an excerpt from our indoor air quality course.

This course helps you make immense improvements in air quality in a corporate office or your own home. It teaches you how to identify sources of indoor air pollution, develop specific strategies for reducing indoor air pollution cost-effectively and reduce productivity problems resulting from airborne irritants, toxins, and carcinogens.

This self-paced course requires no textbook or instructor. Indoor air quality deficiencies often produce discomfort, distress, and disease. Now you can understand how to efficiently eliminate air quality deficiencies.


Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures.

These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person’s exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified.

Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants.

The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants depends on several factors. Age and preexisting medical conditions are two important influences. In other cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological pollutants after repeated exposures, and it appears that some people can become sensitized to chemical pollutants as well.

Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution.

For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the time and place the symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from the home and return when the person returns, an effort should be made to identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes.

Some effects may be made worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air or from the heating, cooling, or humidity conditions prevalent in the home.

Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure.

These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.

More information on potential health effects from particular indoor air pollutants is provided in the section, A Look at Source Specific Controls.

While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems.

People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Further research is needed to better understand which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant concentrations found in homes and which occur from the higher concentrations that occur for short periods.

See the chart Reference Guide to Major Indoor Air Pollutants in the Home.



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