You’re probably surprised to learn that your indoor air is dirtier than outdoor air, and you’re wondering how this could happen.
It’s pretty simple. It’s because just about everything you bring into your house off-gasses creating Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs for short. And then to make matters worse, most of the time your windows are closed which traps all sorts of pollutants inside.
So, what is to blame for VOCs?
Here’s a partial list: carpets, paint, wall coverings, fabrics, cleaning products, scented candles, air fresheners, perfumes, pressed wood furniture, polyurethane foam furniture, adhesives, stains, and cooking. Another source of VOCs is laminate wood flooring which you’ve probably heard a bit about with the recent allegations against Lumber Liquidators and formaldehyde-releasing flooring.
The most prevalent VOC in homes is formaldehyde and it’s in just about everything.
According to the EPA, at certain exposures, formaldehyde can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as other respiratory symptoms. The National Toxicology Program recently classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
So, it’s generally not good news for you, although fortunately formaldehyde does dissipate over time.
How long does it take for formaldehyde to disappear? It really isn’t clear–testing is difficult for many reasons. The EPA simply says that “formaldehyde emissions are highest when products are new and diminish over time so the longer a product has been in place, the lower the levels of formaldehyde likely to be emitted.”
How to Reduce Formaldehyde with Boston Ferns
The good news is that Boston Ferns are proven to reduce formaldehyde. And so, living with plants, specifically the ones that work to lower VOCs can improve your health. According to Dr. Bill Wolverton an Environmental Scientist, plants can be used effectively to reduce VOCs.
You’ll need two plants in 10-12” pots per 100 sq ft. For more information check out his book “Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them”. Many studies support plants’ ability to reduce VOCs. In addition to Boston Ferns, English Ivy, Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Spider plants also reduce formaldehyde.
Here’s the list:
- Boston Fern
- One of the most efficient air purifying plants for formaldehyde according to study published in HortScience
- Requires moisture and humidity to thrive
- Removes formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture, and adhesives)
- English Ivy
- Thrives in low sunlight
- Absorbs formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture, and adhesives)
- Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
- Thrives in low light
- Lowers carbon dioxide and rids air of formaldehyde and benzene
- Spider Plant
- Easy to grow
- Reduces formaldehyde and benzene
How do you keep your indoor air clean? Have you tried using plants?
Ready to Take the Toxic-Free Home Challenge?