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The common belief that plants keep our air pure is tied to a study from the late 1980s, which has since been deemed highly flawed.
Those plant children (who may or may not have names) that grace our bedside tables, line our window sills, and sit proudly on our work desks? It turns out, houseplants are not only fun to care for and a cheerful addition to any home or workspace, but the benefits end right about there. Here’s the backstory on why we’ve been led to think plants are good for air quality.
One famous experiment conducted by NASA in 1989 found that indoor plants can eliminate cancer-causing organic volatile compounds such as formaldehyde and benzene.
Additional research also found that microorganisms in the soil of houseplants contributes to the indoor air purifying process. Bill Wolverton, the former NASA researcher who conducted the 1989 experiment, goes as far as to suggest that each household have at least two “good sized” plants per 100 square feet of living space, citing the importance of foliage. With regards to type, Wolverton especially recommends the Golden Pothos, a popular and easy to grow indoor vine.
There was one major flaw in Wolverton’s study though—all of the data was collected from plants sealed in hermetically sealed environments, which is wildly different than even the smallest of apartments.
Still, regardless of whether or not your plants effectively improve air quality, numerous studies demonstrate the proven impact of household plants on psychological health.
The Journal of Physiological Anthropology, for example, found that plants may help reduce multiple types of stress for young adults, and The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health links plants to increased levels of concentration in children.
Did someone say “reduce stress”? Sign. Us. Up! While the verdict on better air quality is less certain, there’s some serious proof that houseplants are good for your happiness and wellbeing.
So, be thankful for your green thumb, and don’t feel an ounce of regret for thinking of your plants as family. In return for sunshine, water, and food, they silently exist to make our lives a little better.