Since we are staying indoors more than usual because of the coronavirus, houseplants can make our lives healthier and happier. They play an important role in reducing indoor air pollution.

Studies have also shown that having houseplants in our homes improves concentration and productivity by up to 15%, reduces stress and boosts our moods.

In order to reduce heating and cooling costs during the 1970s, builders began wrapping homes and using foam insulation to create “energy efficient” homes. These air-tight homes cost less to cool and heat, but they trapped chemical pollutants indoors.

Poor home ventilation increases the amount of air pollutants and can cause a variety of physical symptoms, such as burning eyes, hoarseness, respiratory difficulties, joint pain and fatigue. Several pollutants given off by synthetic materials even cause cancer.

Having your windows open for ventilation whenever possible and growing houseplants are effective ways to help clean your home’s air. Between cold winter days and hot summer ones here in Yuma, we tend to keep our windows closed a good portion of the year and need houseplants to help filter the stale air.

All houseplants filter the air by removing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen, but some are more efficient than others when it comes to removing harmful pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde.

Benzene and formaldehyde are carcinogens given off by many synthetic products found in our homes. Manufactured wood (particle board) and synthetic fabrics emit formaldehyde. Foam insulation used in home construction before 1982 is one of the worst emitters of formaldehyde and was banned from use in 1982. People with asthma are especially susceptible to formaldehyde. Benzene is used to make resins, plastics, synthetic fabrics, dyes, detergents and pesticides.

In 1989, in preparation for space missions, NASA conducted a study to learn what houseplants most effectively filtered pollutants from indoor air. Thirty-one plants were tested, and they all successfully removed some pollutants. The study reported that having at least one houseplant per 100 square feet helped remove harmful indoor air pollutants.

In 1994, one of the authors of the original NASA study, B. C. Wolverton, conducted a second study and listed the chemical pollutants each houseplant removed. Eleven of the 31 houseplants tested were shown to remove not only benzene and formaldehyde, but also the chemical pollutants trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.

These hard-working houseplants are easy to grow and tolerate indoor light conditions. They are inexpensive and add beauty to your home while helping keep you healthy. We are closely connected to nature, and it only makes sense that we need nature indoors as well as outdoors for optimum health and emotional happiness.

The 11 most efficient air-cleaning houseplants are: Warnecki dracaena, Janet Craig dracaena, florist’s chrysanthemum, cornstalk dracaena, red-edged dracaena, Sansevieria (mother-in-law’s tongue), lady palm, parlor palm, bamboo palm, peace lily and English ivy.

Now is the perfect opportunity to add houseplants to your home. Like sunshine on a cloudy day, houseplants bring happiness indoors…and they help keep us healthy.

Happy gardening!

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