Filling your home with plants could lower your risk of asthma, anxiety and some forms of cancer, according to a new study.
Scientists found that indoor greenery removes toxic fumes from the air and significantly improves overall well-being.
The unique research tested plants’ ability to eliminate gasoline fumes – one of the largest sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in buildings worldwide.
Inhaling such vapors can cause lung irritation, headaches and nausea and has been linked to an increased risk of asthma and cancer.
Work carried out by the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, in collaboration with crop production company Ambius, has revealed a simple way to reduce the risk of related health problems.
They found that after eight hours of being surrounded by a variety of plants, there was a 97 percent reduction in the most harmful compounds.
These have been classified as “major carcinogens” and have been linked to an increased risk of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, early-onset asthma and heart disease.
Almost all (98 percent) of the lung-damaging alkanes were also removed, as was 88 percent of the cyclopentanes, which can cause dizziness and unconsciousness.
The team behind the report said plants could see a 40 percent drop in anxiety and negative feelings in Australia alone.
A 60 percent reduction in sick leave is also possible, they added.
According to the World Health Organization, poor air quality is responsible for 6.7 million premature deaths worldwide each year.
It is estimated that household air pollution is responsible for 3.2 million deaths every year – including 237,000 children under the age of five.
Most toxins enter buildings through the doors and windows of nearby vehicles.
Even when roads aren’t close to a highway or garage, emissions from roads are a major source of urban pollution.
Indoor air is said to be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air due to the presence of concentrated VOCs.
Most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors – at home, at school or at work – so improving air quality is crucial, according to experts.
Fraser Torpy, associate professor at UTS, said: “This is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove gasoline-related compounds and the results are amazing.”
“Not only can plants remove most pollutants from the air within a few hours, they are also the most efficient at removing the most harmful gasoline-related pollutants from the air.”
“For example, the well-known carcinogen benzene is digested faster than less harmful substances such as alcohols.”
“We also found that the more concentrated the toxins in the air, the faster and more effectively they could be removed from the plants. This shows that plants are adapting to their growing conditions.”
Johan Hodgson, General Manager at Ambius, added: “We know that indoor air quality is often significantly more polluted than outdoor air, which in turn affects mental and physical health.”
“But the good news is that this study showed that something as simple as having plants in your home can make a big difference.”
“The bottom line is that introducing plants is the best, most cost-effective, and most sustainable way to combat harmful indoor air pollutants in your workplace and home.”
The plants used for the study were Devil’s Ivy (Scindapsus Aureus), Spider Plant (Chlorophytum), and Arrowhead (Syngonium).