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NASA Clean Air Study

The NASA Clean Air Study[1] was led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA). Its results suggest that certain common indoor plants may provide a natural way of removing toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air, helping neutralize the effects of sick building syndrome. However, the study was not conducted under realistic home or office conditions, and the few studies that have been conducted under such conditions show mixed results. [2]

The first list of air-filtering plants was compiled by NASA as part of a clean air study published in 1989,[3][4][5] which researched ways to clean air in space stations. As well as absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, as all plants do, these plants also eliminate significant amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. The second and third lists are from B. C. Wolverton's book[6] and paper[7] and focus on removal of specific chemicals.

NASA researchers suggest efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space[citation needed]. Other more recent research[8] has shown that micro-organisms in the potting mix (soil) of a potted plant remove benzene from the air, and that some plant species also contribute to removing benzene.


Chart of air-filtering plantsEdit

One of the plants in this study is the Flamingo Flower.
Plant, removes: benzene[3] Total µg/h of benzene removed[3] formaldehyde[3][6][7] Total µg/h of formaldehyde removed[3][7] trichloroethylene[3] Total µg/h of trichloroethylene removed[3] xylene and toluene[7] ammonia[7] Toxic to dogs, cats[9]
Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) No Yes[6] 1,385[7] No Yes No non-toxic[10]
Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) No Yes[6] No Yes No non-toxic[11]
Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') No Yes[6] 1,863[7] No Yes No non-toxic[12]
Kimberley queen fern (Nephrolepis obliterata) No Yes[6] 1,328[7] No Yes No non-toxic[13]
English ivy (Hedera helix) Yes 579 Yes[6] 402[3] -1,120[7] Yes 298 Yes No toxic[14]
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) No Yes[3] 560[7] No Yes No non-toxic[15]
Devil's ivy, Pothos plant (Epipremnum aureum) Yes Yes[3] No Yes No toxic[16]
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa') Yes 1,725 Yes[6] 674[3] Yes 1,128 Yes Yes toxic[17]
Flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum) No Yes No Yes Yes toxic[18]
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) Yes[6][19] 604 Yes[6][19] 183[5] No No No toxic[20]
Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) Yes 1,420 Yes[3][6] 3,196[3] Yes 688 Yes No non-toxic[21]
Variegated snake plant, mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii') Yes[6] 1196[5] Yes[3] 1,304[3] Yes[6] 405 Yes No toxic[22]
Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron cordatum) No Yes[3] 353[3] No No No toxic[23]
Selloum philodendron
(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)
No Yes[3] 361[3] No No No toxic[citation needed]
Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum) No Yes[3] 416[3] No No No toxic[citation needed]
Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata) Yes 1,264 Yes[3] 853[3] Yes 1,137 Yes No toxic[24]
Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana') Yes Yes[3] 938[7] Yes 421 No No toxic[24]
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)[25] No Yes[6] 940[7] No Yes No toxic[26]
Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) Yes 4,486 Yes[6] Yes 1,622 No No non-toxic[27]
Florist's chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) Yes 3,205 Yes[3][6] 1,450[7] Yes Yes Yes toxic[28]
Rubber plant (Ficus elastica) No Yes[6] No No No toxic[29]
Dendrobium orchids (Dendrobium spp.) No No No Yes No non-toxic[citation needed]
Dumb canes (Dieffenbachia spp.) No No No Yes No toxic[30]
King of hearts (Homalomena wallisii) No No No Yes No toxic[citation needed]
Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) No No No Yes No non-toxic[31]
Aloe vera (Aloe vera) Yes[32] Yes No No No toxic[33]
Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis "Janet Craig") Yes[1] 1,082 Yes[1] 1,361[7] - 2,037[3] Yes[1] 764 No No toxic[34]
Warneckei (Dracaena deremensis "Warneckei") Yes[1] 1,630 Yes[1] 760[7] Yes[1] 573 No No toxic[34]
Banana (Musa acuminata) No Yes[1] 488[3] No No No non-toxic[35]


Most of the plants on the list originated in tropical or subtropical environments. Due to their ability to flourish on reduced sunlight, their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize well in household light.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h BC Wolverton; WL Douglas; K Bounds (September 1989). Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement (Report). NASA. NASA-TM-101766.
  2. ^ Dela Cruz, M; Christensen, JH; Thomsen, JD; Müller, R (2014). "Can ornamental potted plants remove volatile organic compounds from indoor air? — a review" (PDF). Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 21 (24): 13909–13928. doi:10.1007/s11356-014-3240-x. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Pottorff, L. Plants "Clean" Air Inside Our Homes. Colorado State University & Denver County Extension Master Gardener. 2010.[dead link]
  4. ^ Wolverton, B. C., et al. (1984). Foliage plants for removing indoor air pollutants from energy-efficient homes. Economic Botany 38(2), 224-28.
  5. ^ a b c Wolverton, B. C., et al. A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement: an interim report. NASA. September, 1989.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Wolverton, B. C. (1996) How to Grow Fresh Air. New York: Penguin Books.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Wolverton, B. C. and J. D. Wolverton. (1993). Plants and soil microorganisms: removal of formaldehyde, xylene, and ammonia from the indoor environment. Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences 38(2), 11-15.
  8. ^ Orwell, R.; Wood, R.; Tarran, J.; Torpy, F.; Burchett, M. (2004). "Removal of Benzene by the Indoor Plant/Substrate Microcosm and Implications for Air Quality". Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 157 (1–4): 193–207. doi:10.1023/B:WATE.0000038896.55713.5b.
  9. ^ "Poisonous Plants".
  10. ^ "Dwarf Date Palm".
  11. ^ "Areca Palm".
  12. ^ "Boston Fern".
  13. ^ "King and Queen Fern".
  14. ^ "English Ivy".
  15. ^ "Spider Plant".
  16. ^ "Devils Ivy".
  17. ^ "Peace Lily".
  18. ^ "Flamingo Flower".
  19. ^ a b Wolverton, B. C., et al. Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement: final report.[permanent dead link] NASA. September, 1989. pp 11-12.
  20. ^ "Chinese Evergreen".
  21. ^ "Bamboo Palm".
  22. ^ "Snake Plant".
  23. ^ "Heartleaf Philodendron".
  24. ^ a b "Dracaena".
  25. ^ American Society for Horticultural Science. Indoor plants can reduce formaldehyde levels. ScienceDaily. February 20, 2009. Quote: "...Complete plants removed approximately 80% of the formaldehyde within 4 hours. Control chambers pumped with the same amount of formaldehyde, but not containing any plant parts, decreased by 7.3% during the day and 6.9% overnight within 5 hours..." In reference to: Kim, J. K., et al. (2008). Efficiency of volatile formaldehyde removal by indoor plants: contribution of aerial plant parts versus the root zone. Horticultural Science 133: 479-627.
  26. ^ "Weeping Fig".
  27. ^ "Barberton Daisy".
  28. ^ "Chrysanthemum".
  29. ^ "Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants: Toxic Plants (by scientific name)". University of California. Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  30. ^ "Dumbcane".
  31. ^ "Phalaenopsis Orchid".
  32. ^ "15 houseplants for improving indoor air quality". MNN - Mother Nature Network. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  33. ^ "Aloe".
  34. ^ a b "Warneckei Dracaena".
  35. ^ "Banana".

External linksEdit