Gerbera Daisy II
26th September 2012
Healthy Home

Chrysanthemum’s the word! – Houseplants and toxins

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Consider adding houseplants to your home to purify the air.  As the Air Quality Health Index reaches a “four” today in Calgary, and a faint smell of smoke lingers in the air, the purification benefits of household plants come to mind.  (A reading of four indicates a moderate risk from the air we breathe).

Many of the palms make excellent air purifiers, as do rubber plants and peace lilies. These and other plants can provide excellent benefits in enhancing our surroundings while purifying the air and protecting our health.



Peace lily (from


We probably all know people who are suffering from environmental toxins and “sick building syndrome.” Asthma is increasingly affecting young people. Home occupants become ever more sensitive to the toxins around them, as synthetic foam mattresses and new carpets off gas noxious chemicals.

One of these toxic chemicals, formaldehyde, may be found in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues, particleboard, and personal care products. The spider plant, snake plant, English ivy, golden pothos (Devil’s ivy), Boston fern, Areca palm, and azalea are all known to remove formaldehyde from the air. The spider plant and Boston fern also remove xylene, which may be found in paint removers, varnish, shellac, and rust preventatives.

Benzene, found in glue, paint, plastics, furniture wax, cigarette smoke, and detergent, can be filtered out by the Gerbera daisy, Boston fern, English ivy, Areca palm, and chrysanthemum.


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Beauty at what cost? Fond as you may be of nail polish and perfume, using either may expose you to toluene. Toluene is also used to produce pop bottles, pharmaceuticals, and dyes, and can be found in cigarette smoke.

Why should we really care about these chemicals? The health hazards are far from minor. Benzene may cause anemia and leukemia. Formaldehyde is suspected to cause cancer. Xylene at low levels can cause dizziness, confusion, lack of muscle coordination, and headaches. Toluene may cause central nervous system dysfunction, arrhythmias, and unconsciousness.

NASA researched plants for their ability to purify space-station air, and gave certain plants a rating according to their ability to purify the air. Dr. B.C. Wolverton and NASA have compiled lists identifying the air purification benefits of houseplants, as well as the plants’ potentially harmful effects on pets, livestock, and humans.

You may need up to two dozen houseplants to clean the air in your home. Before you rush out to your local garden centre, though, you may wish to check out plant toxicity on Wiki, and other, sites.

For more information on air quality, you might find some of the websites linked to the Purair site to be very informative. Then go exercise your green thumb!

(Just as we might want to fight the harmful effects of toxins in our homes, mummers also portray battles between good and evil. Below are the Morris dancers of Bowen Island, B.C.)




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