In 1989, NASA released the results of a study conducted to determine the best plants for refreshing the air of their space shuttles. The results showed which plants best filter out toxins in the air and neutralize the effects of "sick building syndrome" (SBS), which include faulty air flow, offgassing of building materials, molds, improper venting of ozone byproducts from office machines and the use of industrial chemicals inside the building.
It sounds yucky, but the pollutants that contribute to SBS are in the things all around us, from our computers to our desks and carpets, and even stale air can be detrimental. Luckily, the solution to all that ick is as simple as adding a plant to our environment.
What Ails Us:
Sources: Inks, oils, paints, plastics, rubber, dyes, detergents, gasoline, pharmaceutical, tobacco smoke, synthetic fibers
Sources: Foam insulation, plywood, pressed-wood products, grocery bags, waxed paper, fire retardants, adhesive binders in floor coverings, cigarette smoke, natural gas
Sources: Primarily used in the metal degreasing and dry cleaning industries; also in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, adhesives
What Heals Us:
While each of these plants has its own light requirements and watering needs, they all work very well indoors, and are suitable for any type of office. Choose a low light plant like philodendron or peace lily if you're far away from a window, or set up a system to rotate your plant to be exposed to light. Other plants like English ivy need plenty of indirect sunlight, and do well in hanging containers.
Read the original NASA clean air study for a more detailed report on their methods and findings. Remember, they recommend at least one six inch plant per 100 square feet, to be effective. Check your local nursery if you need plant-related help or advice.
Do you keep a plant in your office? What are your favorites?
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(Computer and plant: Flickr member JasonTank licensed for use under Creative Commons. English ivy: Flickr member elricky licensed for use under Creative Commons. Chrysanthemum: Flickr member Sids1 licensed for use under Creative Commons. Dracaena: Flickr member ritesh3 licensed for use under Creative Commons. Peace lily: Flickr member iowa_spirit_walker licensed for use under Creative Commons. Gerbera: Flickr member -Bert23- licensed for use under Creative Commons. Azalea: Flickr member Bohemianism licensed for use under Creative Commons. Philodendron: Flickr member cliff1066™ licensed for use under Creative Commons. Philodendron: Flickr member madaise licensed for use under Creative Commons)