9 Jan
2018

Improving Indoor Air Quality – VOC eating Plants – Hepa Air Filters

Posted by Norman F

air cleaning plant, air purifying plant

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality refers to how clean the air indoors is. We spend 90-95% of our time indoors. Often times the air outside is cleaner. This leads to health problems like allergies, asthma, etc.

Consumer Product Safety Commission and EPA has a good guide on how to improve indoor air quality. EPA has an extensive list of items that affect indoor air quality.

Major air quality problems include: Smoking, Fireplaces, Mold, Dust, Radon, Stoves.

Some lesser known problems include: Offgassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals from paint, carpets, cleaners, gasoline, paint thinner, dryclean clothes, office equipment, furniture, and building materials.

California drought resistant native plants

Using Plants to Scrub the Air

NASA has done research to show that plants Clean Air and Water for Indoor Environments. Plants have been found to reduce dust, formaldehyde, benzene, and other harmful chemicals. Air purification using plants is called phytoremediation. Recent research conducted at universities found that certain plants reduced total VOC levels by up to 75%. Plants clean the air by absorbing chemicals through small leaf pores called stomata . And from microorganisms living in the soil.

List of Plants that Purify the Air

Plants that are recommended include:

  • Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens)
  • Asparagus fern
  • azalea
  • Bamboo palm (Chamaedora seifritzee)
  • Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Corn Plant
  • Devils ivy
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)
  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Flamingo flower
  • Gerbera daisy
  • Golden pothos (Scindapsus aureus)
  • Grape Ivy
  • Janet Craig
  • Kimberly Queen fern (Nephrolepis obliterate)
  • Ligustrum
  • Marginata
  • Mother in-laws tongue
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum clevelandii)
  • Philodendron
  • Poinsettia
  • Pot Mum
  • Schefflera
  • Snake plants
  • Spider plants (Chlorophytum elatum)
  • Tulip Orchid
  • Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)

One or two plants can clean approximately 100 square feet. Formaldehyde is no longer detectable if you have 1 or 2 Boston ferns within a 100 square feet space.

Removing common chemicals from the air

Formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene are three common toxic indoor chemicals that should be removed from the air. Philodendron and spider plants remove  formaldehyde; English ivy and Marginata remove the large amounts of benzene; and Gerbera daisy and the Peace Lily are very good in removing trichloroethylene.

Penn State recommends plants for improving air quality too.

Consumer Products vs Transporation

A study in 2018 by the NOAA and UC Davis concluded that Consumer products such as shampoo, cleaning products and paint now contribute as much to urban air pollution as tailpipe emissions from cars!

Perfumes, lotions, paint thinner, paints and other products contribute about as much to air pollution as does the transportation. In the case of one type of pollution—tiny particles that can damage people’s lungs—particle-forming emissions from chemical products are about twice as high as those from the transportation sector, the team found.

The scientists focused on volatile organic compounds or VOCs that can waft into the atmosphere and react to produce either ozone or particulate matter—both of which are regulated in the United States and many other countries because of health impacts, including lung damage.

Preventing Mold

Make sure that you do not over water your indoor plants. Mold occurs typically when house plants are watered too much or too often.

Carpets and foam carpet pads are among the most significant sources of toxic chemicals in indoor environments — chemicals we daily inhale into our lungs and absorb through our skin. A recent report by the Healthy Building Network uncovered 44 toxic chemicals common in carpets. These chemicals are known to cause respiratory disease, heart attacks, strokes, asthma and immune and developmental health problems in children. Magnifying the threat carpet poses to children’s health is the fact that they spend much time on the floor. And air pollution is particularly harmful to infants.

If you have carpet, consider removing it or using modular green carpets such as Interface floor. Install using no voc adhesives.

Choose a flooring type like wood, natural linoleum or 100 percent wool carpet.

If you pick broadloom carpet, choose products installed by “stretch-in” or tackless strips — not wet adhesives. Home Depot recently banned a host of toxic chemicals from the carpets it sells.

Avoid chemical treatments for mold, bacteria or fluorinated stain repellants.

Choose carpet pads made with natural fibers or rubber.

air duct, heating vents, heater, furnace

Filtering your air

Putting a better filter on your heater, such as a 3M Filtrete will also improve indoor air quality.

In room portable air purifiers with HEPA filters also help clear the air. Look for ones that are whisper quiet.

Also consider installing a high-quality whole house air filtration system such as one from Aprilaire.  These filters, filter the year before it reaches your heating system. Neutralize most germs, dust, mold spores and other air borne pollutants.

This is a lot cheaper and more green and eco than buying lots of air purifiers or replacing every piece of furniture you have.

Air Duct Cleaning and Vent Cleaning

I keep hearing Air Duct and Vent Cleaning commercials on the radio. Clearly it is a big business.  They brush and vacuum up each air duct and into each return where possible.  It is supposed to help remove dust, mold, etc especially helpful for people with allergies.

The American Lung Association has said that Duct Cleaning hasn’t been shown to prevent health issues nor has it been shown that dirty air ducts cause more dust. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend that air ducts be cleaned routinely, only when they are dirty.

Be sure to Fix Leaky Ducts – Reducing Air Leaks

Posted on January 9th, 2018
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