House plants and cleaner air

Contributed by Janice Welch

In visiting with a friend of mine about toxins in the environment, she indicated that she had bought English ivy for her kitchen to absorb toxins emitted from gas stoves, etc. Although I had heard about the importance of plants in indoor spaces, I had never been inclined to purchase any due to the fact that I do not have a green thumb; in fact mine is quite brown.

I single-handedly put multiple houseplants to rest back in my earlier years. Yet now, I figured, I am all grown up and I was quite intrigued, so I began to research different houseplants.

My friend was absolutely correct about English ivy being a toxin remover. The problem is that it is quite toxic itself, and without a very high place to put it, I would never be able have it around my Nathan (no telling what that boy would eat).

So I found some other plants that are toxin removers and researched their toxicity, and also purchased some. Although some havenít made it, others have done amazingly well, even after my inattention.

The most common chemical offenders in our homes and offices are benzene (found in detergents, ink or dye, petroleum products, plastics and rubbers, synthetic fibers, smoke, etc.), formaldehyde (found in carpeting, cleaners, furniture, plywood, etc.), and trichloroethylene (found in adhesives, dry cleaning, inks or dyes, lacquer or paint, varnishes, etc.)

The big toxin reducer plants that are found in most studies are:

English ivy – benzene reducer – but TTN*

Janet Craig Dracaena – benzene reducer – super easy to care for!

Other Dracaenas – benzene and trichloroethylene reducers – also easy to care for

Areca Palm – benzene, trichloroethylene, and dust allergen reducer – beautiful plant, takes a lot of water, but easy to care for

Peace Lily – benzene, trichloroethylene, and dust allergen reducer – beautiful plant, takes a lot of water, also easy to care for, but sadly is TTN*

Boston Ferns – multiple chemical reductions, and non-toxic, but I found them horribly hard to care for; both of mine are now outside enjoying the pampering of my gardener husband

Golden Pothos or Devilís Ivy – benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide reducer – sadly TTN*

Aloe – formaldehyde reducer – great plant, but portions are TTN*

Spider plants – good for carbon monoxide reduction – relatively easy to care for

*Do realize that all plants have some level of toxicity when ingested by sensitive individuals. I have listed the ones that show severe or moderate reactions as “TTN” – or Too Toxic for Nathan. The others may still induce mild reactions in some individuals.

There are other plants that could be included in this list, but all of the above are easily found at any garden center.

The ideal spacing of these houseplants is one per every 100 square foot of space. So I do have more plants to buy, but I feel very confident with the dracaenas (especially the Janet

Craig) and the areca palms.

One last note on toxic plants: If you have children (especially special needs children), or if children play in your yard, remove all oleander plants. Since they are hardy, pretty, and

easy to care for, homebuilders plant them in many yards. The entire plant is extremely toxic, and ingestion of any part could have very serious consequences. If this last statement

makes you wary, a good website for a listing of indoor and outdoor poisonous plants by botanical name and common name is at:


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