Breathe Green, Breathe Clean

Studies have shown that indoor air quality can be up to 10 times worse than the outdoors, especially in developing countries! This is because potential pollutants can accumulate more in closed areas than in open spaces.

Though the air we breathe looks clean, it is saturated with dust, fungi, moulds, formaldehyde found on carpets and furnishing, and volatile organic compounds found as solvents in hair spray, perfumes, and air fresheners.

Statistics suggest that in developing countries, health impacts of indoor air pollution far outweigh those of outdoor air pollution. Metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai and even our very own garden-city of Bangalore have 2 – 4 times the permissible levels of pollution! Even in these cities however, outdoor air is cleaner and preferable to indoor air, because trees and plants are constantly cleaning the air outside!

Poor indoor air quality is the second largest killer with 1.3 million deaths in India each year.

Indoor plants are Nature’s natural purifiers! By bringing these natural purifiers into our homes, we can improve the quality of the air we breathe and beautify our spaces at the same time.

NASA has conducted a study that studied how plants purify the air, not only by absorbing Carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen but by removing toxic solvents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the atmosphere.

Here in India, Kamal Meattle, Delhi-based, environmental activist and business owner conducted his own research after becoming allergic to the polluted Delhi air. His office in Delhi with its air-filtering plants and sustainable architecture, is a model of green business.

NASA’s top 10 air purifiers

The Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)

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NASA Purifying Score: 8.5

The top air purifying plant as ranked by NASA’s study is the Areca palm tree. It is called “the most efficient air humidifier”, the Areca can be counted on to keep your home moist during dry times and continuously remove chemical toxins from the air. During winters it can replace the use of electric humidifiers altogether!

According to Kamal Meattle, 4 shoulder-height areca plants for every person placed around the house is ideal. The plant’s leaves should be wiped clean daily or weekly depending on how polluted the air is. It is ideally best to grow the plant hydroponically (in nutrient-rich water) in vermin manure. It is also best to place the plant outdoors every 3-4 months, to promote growth.

The Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

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NASA Purifying Score: 8.5

Just as effective as the Areca Palm, this versatile plant survives in dry or humid climates and is fiercely resistant to most types of plant insects.

The Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

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NASA Purifying Score: 8.4

The Bamboo palm thrives when kept moist and in indirect sunlight. Provided these conditions are kept stable, the Bamboo palm can be counted on to purify the indoor air of anywhere you happen to be.

The Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)

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NASA Purifying Score: 8.0

Rubber plants excel at removing chemical toxins (especially formaldehyde) from indoor air. They require less light than many other plants and outperform all other ficuses. However, rubber plant leaves can be toxic so caution is advised in homes with pets.

The Dracaena (Dracaena deremensis)

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NASA Purifying Score: 7.8

This popular houseplant is efficient in removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene from the air.

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

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Kamal Meattle recommends this hardy plant, also called the Snake plant because it converts carbon dioxide to oxygen even at night. He recommends 6-8 waist-high plants/person placed in the bedroom. As with the Areca palm, growing the Snake plant hydroponically is best.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)

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NASA Purifying Score: 7.5

The peace lily is a popular indoor plant that NASA found to be one of the most effective in removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, ammonia, xylene, toluene and several other known pollutants from the air.

The Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum)

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This ubiquitous plant is one of the hardiest plants which do well in most of the indoor environmental conditions. It is effective in cleaning benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene from the air.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exalta)

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NASA Purifying Score: 7.5

This cool and relaxing fern has been called the “most effective filtering plant”
It is effective in removing formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and airborne germs, moulds, and bacteria from the indoor air. Those with asthma and allergies will benefit from its presence.

Aloe Vera

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This popular succulent has been known for its many medical benefits since ancient times. NASA has found it effective in removing benzene and formaldehyde from the air.

Using these plants in our homes will make it possible for us to Breathe Green & Breathe Clean!

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