Indoor Air


plant in window

Indoor Air Quality (1)

Indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air, and conventional paints are among the main culprits.  Because fossil fuels are the primary ingredients found in paints and varnishes, they give off greenhouse gases, toxic waste, and air pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).   TIP: Buy natural paints and finishes, or water-based paints with low-VOC or zero-VOC content that carry little or no petroleum-based solvents.  They are not only better for the environment but also offer an alternative for allergy and asthma sufferers, pregnant women, and young children who are sensitive to certain pollutants. New non-toxic biodegradable paint strippers are also becoming available.  And to prolong the life of wood floors, decks, and furniture, use natural wood oils.  Unlike with normal polyurethane varnishes, there is no need to sand the wood before applying.

Fight Pollution Indoors With Plants (2)

According to research carried out by NASA, the pollution we face indoors can be just as worrying as the pollution we are faced with outdoors.

People spend around 90 percent of their time indoors—whether at home or at work. Those working indoors are constantly bombarded by air borne pollutants from everyday items such as printers or copiers, as well as mildew, paint and synthetic air fresheners.

However, NASA has revealed that many indoor plants absorb air pollutants through their leaves and roots, which is converted into breathable air. Within 24 hours, some plants can remove up to 87 percent of toxic indoor air.

Below is a list of the main indoor pollutants, and the plants which can be used to combat toxic indoor air. To be effective “air cleaners” it is necessary to use one potted plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.


Found in: Inks, oils, paints, plastics, rubber, dyes, detergents, gasoline, pharmaceutical, tobacco smoke, synthetic fibers

Plant options: English Ivy, Dracaena marginata, Janet Craig, Warneckei, Chrysanthemum, Gerbera Daisy, Peace lily


Found in: Foam insulation, plywood, pressed-wood products, grocery bags, waxed paper, fire retardants, adhesive binders in floor coverings, cigarette smoke, natural gas

Plant options: Azalea, Philodendron, Spider plant, Golden Pothos, Bamboo palm, Corn plant, Chrysanthemum, Mother-in-law’s tongue.


Found in: Primarily used in the metal degreasing and dry cleaning industries; also in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, adhesives.

Plant options: Gerbera Daisy, Chrysanthemum, Peace lily, Warneckei, Dracaena marginata. Plants work equally well in homes, offices and factories, as long as their requirements for sunlight, water and soil are met.

Reference Sources back to top

  1. Bonnin, Jenny and KimMcKay.
    True Green.
    Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006.
  2. Ambarchian, Nyree.  
    “Fight Pollution Indoors With Plants.” 
    5 Feb. 2008. Earth 911. 12 Aug. 2008