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A list of healthy interior landscape plants by NASA

Nasa’s dusty archives deliver Clean Air Study, a 1980’s dossier on ornamental plants for indoor air pollution abatement

nasa-study-clean-air-study-best-air-filtering-common-indoor-plants
Getty Images

Have you ever fantasised about the best ornamental plants to bring over to Mars? Well, in case you are not wing nuts, probably you just didn’t, but please be grateful to NASA who did the job for us! Indeed, the American Space Agency has recently unearthed an old report seemingly popping out from a Sci-Fi B-movie which lists the healthiest interior landscape plants able to provide maximum environmental benefits.

Tracing back to the Eighties, the research is still of help nowadays. Created in partnership with Associated Landscape Contractors of America, Clean Air Study compares a group of 12 plant species preliminarily selected for a previous data investigation. The key criteria was common indoor plants’ capacity to remove highly volatile organic chemicals with potentially harmful effects on humans rom indoor air, such as benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde. 

Specifically, benzene is used to make polymers, plastics, resins, rubbers, lubricants, detergents and drugs, and is also contained in products like tobacco, glues, paints and furniture wax. Human exposure to benzene is associated with an array of short-term adverse health effects like skin or eye irritation, drowsiness, dizziness, irregular heart-beat, headache, blurred vision, and occasional loss of consciousness. Trichloroethylene is found and used in products such as dyes, printing inks, paints, adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids, as well as spot removers; when inhaled, trichloroethylene can cause a feeling of excitement, headaches, dizziness, poor coordination, and potentially unconsciousness, not to mention nausea and vomit, followed by coma. Formaldehyde is generally featured in products such as chemicals, particle board, household products, glues, permanent press fabrics, paper product coatings, fiberboard and plywood. Human exposure to it can produce rapid onset of eye, nose and throat irritation, and in worst cases, swelling of the voice box and lungs.

Are you panicking? Stop! First of all, being originally compiled in the 1980s, the study is now outdated and the composition and impact of materials we buy and use daily have been significantly improved; secondly, you can now decorate your house or workspace with the best air-filtering indoor plants by following NASA’s tips.

Which plants are currently on a roll in far, far Houston? Winners include: Cornstalk dracaena (also known as Dragon plant), Chrysanthemum, Barberton daisy (whose lush blossoms deserve loads of accolades), Dracaena deremensis Warneckei, and same old Ficus Benjamin. After all, eyes must be fed too, and such common indoor plants are not only beautiful, but also easy to grow and possibly found at your local flower shop.

One last tip: you would need a large vase and constant care. Apparently, plants best absorb benzene from soils through their roots and translocate it to other plant parts. That explains why the plant/soil combo must be keenly preserved and enhanced in order to get better results. Moreover, pruned plants perform better than flourishing greenery: oh, the mysteries of flora!

Photo: Getty Images

READ ALSO:
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by Stefano Annovazzi Lodi / 29 November 2017

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