When thinking about our personal health care, one of the things we tend to overlook is the health of our home. And I’m not talking about basic home-hygiene — I’m talking about indoor air quality.
Indoor air quality is considered the fourth-greatest pollution threat according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
How much do we know about indoor air quality? Many of today’s new building materials, carpets, furniture, and even cleaning products, release chemicals into our indoor air that can affect our health. This chemical release is called “off-gassing” and specifically refers to the breakdown of volatile organic compounds. VOCs are found in many cleaning products, adhesives and polyurethane foam used in furniture and mattresses, and in new home construction.
Most new carpets contain VOCs, as do particle board and varnishes. There are hundreds of varieties of VOCs, but the most well-known ones are formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethane and chlorofluorocarbons.
Reactions to off-gassing range from headaches, persistent allergies and skin irritation to asthma attacks. Mild body aches and fatigue may also be related to it.
People with compromised immune systems, lungs and livers may feel the burden a bit more than others.
Luckily, there is an easy way to counteract the off-gassing of modern building materials: indoor house plants.
Back in the 1980s, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America performed a study to create a list of houseplants that would purify the air in enclosed places for NASA’s space facilities.
Even if you don’t live in a space station, this study identifies some of the best air-purifying house plants to improve indoor air quality.
Even better for us, most of these plants are very easy to grow and survive our best efforts at forgetting to water them.