We’re now in thick of the gardening and growing season across most of the country. When I think about gardening and growing different types of plants, I have to admit that I’m mostly thinking about food and what I would like to eat later (ok, ok, this is typically what I’m always thinking about). But I also enjoy the fresh air and recognize the close relationship between air quality and health. So, it was really refreshing to come across this book by Dr. B.C. Wolverton called, “How to grow fresh air.”
Air Quality And Health: How To Grow Fresh Air
This book represents over 25 years of research that Dr. Wolverton conducted with folks at NASA, but it is not overly technical or heavy on the science. The premise was simple – air quality and health are related, so how might one use plants to clean, purify, and improve the air in a lunar habitat? The answers came from many studies of different types of plants to identify which ones absorbed environmental toxins and how much of those toxins they could clear from the air. So, if you are someone with allergies, respiratory problems, fatigue, or headaches, this book is for you.
In the book, Dr. Wolverton rates 50 different houseplants on the dimensions of “removal of chemical vapors,” “ease of growth and maintenance,” “resistance to insect infestation,” and “transpiration rate” (how much humidity the plant can be expected to put out). He also gives each plant a numerical overall rating.
So, what are some of the things that we’ve learned so far?
- Plants like the Boston fern and the Florist’s mum remove the most formaldehyde from the air (formaldehyde is the most common air toxin in homes – it is used in the manufacture of plywood, particle board, carpets, adhesives, fabrics, etc., etc.)
- Plants like the Areca palm and the Dwarf date palm remove the most xylene and toluene from the air (these compounds are found in paints, adhesives, tiles, caulking, and computer equipment)
- Plants like the Lady palm and the King of hearts remove the most ammonia from the air (a common ingredient in a number of cleaning products)
There’s lots more in this great book, such as which plants release oxygen at night and carbon dioxide during the day (the reverse of most plants), since these are the types of plants that you want providing fresh oxygen in your bedroom at night. I enjoy finding paths to better health in unexpected places and “How to grow fresh air” was a pleasant surprise. So go get a few of these houseplants and improve your air!
See our How-to Guide on Indoor Air Quality