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Can houseplants improve air quality?

Houseplants are a common decoration in our room and are commonly acknowledged as efficient air cleaners and purifiers. However, that is only partly true. Can houseplants really improve the air quality? How efficient can it be? Are there any neglected problems? The fact may be more complicated than you have expected. This article will address these problems and discuss whether we should have any houseplants in our rooms.


Houseplants and indoor air quality

Theoretically, houseplants can bring many benefits to indoor air quality. They can improve air quality in a few ways:


Absorbing pollutants: Studies have shown that certain houseplants can remove harmful pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, which can contribute to poor indoor air quality.


Producing oxygen: We know that during photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, which helps to freshen indoor air and improve overall air quality.


Increasing humidity: Houseplants can increase humidity levels through a process known as transpiration, which can help to mitigate the effects of dry air and reduce the spread of viruses and other airborne pathogens.


Reducing dust: Houseplants can help to reduce the levels of dust in indoor air, which can help to improve air quality and reduce the risk of respiratory problems.


The problem is, these benefits are all based on laboratory test results. While our real-life living environment is entirely different from the lab. For example, our rooms are hundreds of times larger that a chamber. Most of the proofs around these benefits are related to a NASA study conducted in 1989. And one of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviewers has claimed that to achieve a similar result, we need about 680 plants in a typical room. Can you imagine what is like to have hundreds of plants in your house? Well, you may be thinking that even if we can’t have that many plants at home, having a few is at least better than nothing. Yes, that is true. But it is worth mentioning that houseplants don’t only bring benefits, but risks as well.


Risks of houseplants

While houseplants can bring many benefits, there are also some risks associated with having them in indoor environments, including:


Allergies: Certain species of houseplants can cause allergic reactions in some individuals, such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose.


Toxicity: Some houseplants, such as philodendrons, dieffenbachia, and pothos, are toxic if ingested and can cause symptoms such as mouth irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea.


Pests: Houseplants can serve as a habitat for pests, such as spider mites, thrips, and scale insects, which can infest other plants and cause damage.


Other than these potential risks, raising plants also requires much effort. Houseplants can easily die of the following problems:


Overwatering: Overwatering can lead to root rot, a condition that can kill the plant.


Lack of light: Some houseplants require bright, indirect light to thrive, while others can tolerate low-light conditions. If a plant does not receive enough light, it can become leggy, yellow, or otherwise unhealthy.


Soil-borne diseases: Poorly drained soil can create a breeding ground for disease-causing organisms, which can be transmitted to other plants.


It is important to research the specific care requirements of each type of houseplant and to be aware of any potential health risks or issues associated with having them in indoor environments.


Proper methods for improving air quality

In general, houseplants can improve air quality to some extent, but they are not necessarily the best choice for everyone. Common methods for improving indoor air quality include:


Proper ventilation: Proper ventilation can help remove pollutants and improve indoor air quality. This can be achieved through the use of exhaust fans, open windows, or mechanical ventilation systems.


Air filtration systems: Air filtration systems, such as HEPA filters or activated carbon filters, can help remove pollutants and improve indoor air quality.


Minimizing the use of chemicals: Minimizing the use of chemicals, such as cleaning products and air fresheners, can help reduce indoor air pollution.


Using low-emitting products: Using low-emitting products, such as low-VOC paints and formaldehyde-free furniture, can help reduce indoor air pollution.


The best choice for improving indoor air quality will depend on individual circumstances and the specific pollutants that need to be addressed. Houseplants can be an effective complementary method for improving air quality though, they are not a substitute for proper ventilation, air filtration systems, or other more effective methods.


Other benefits of houseplants

Although it may be a little disappointing that houseplants can’t do much help to improve air quality, they do make a big difference in some other aspects:


Aesthetic appeal: Houseplants can add color, texture, and life to indoor spaces.


Reducing stress levels: Studies have shown that caring for plants can reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being.


Boosting productivity: Research has shown that incorporating plants into workspaces can increase productivity and creativity.


Improving mental health: Spending time with plants has been linked to improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Therefore, it is still a good idea to have some houseplants in your room.


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