It’s fair to say that many of us spend too much time in the office. In fact, many of you are likely sitting in your cubicle or office as you read this. Offices are typically built for function alone, and definitely not built with the health of its inhabitants in mind. This means that often times the quality of the air and health of the indoor environment is below ideal.
For example, have you ever considered where your building’s air-intake is located? Its likely sucking in vehicle exhaust fumes from the street outside. Not only that, but the various office equipment like photocopiers, printers and scanners can emit ozone and other chemicals into the air. Also, depending on the age of the building and its furniture; the floors, fabrics and walls can all be slowly releasing formaldehyde into the environment.
Office air quality can have such a negative effect on your health that there is even a name for it, Sick Building Syndrome. Workers can often experience a series of mild but still unpleasant symptoms, such as fatigue, stuffy nose, sore throat, and headache.
Yet another illness associated with office air quality is called Monday Morning Syndrome, which is caused when the building’s air circulation system is shut down over the weekend, only to be restarted for Monday morning. Symptoms are similar to Sick Building Syndrome.
One easy way to combat poor office air quality, and to also build a more beautiful and stimulating office environment, is to bring plants into the building. House plants have proven so successful at removing harmful substances from the air that NASA developed an air-purifying score by which to compare some of the most popular and effective plants.
Specifically, NASA looked at how effective certain houseplants were in removing formaldehyde, benzene (component of gasoline products), benzene derivatives, trichloroethylene (an industrial solvent), Xylene (a solvent), and ammonia.
The plants listed below are some of the most effective additions to your home or office to help clean the air. They will also add a bit of green to your work environment which has been proven time and time again to boost morale and productivity.
1. Aloe Vera
A common houseplant found in kitchens around the world, it is usually associated with treating mild burns and soothing sunburns. However, many people don’t know it is also an easy way to remove harmful solvents from the air, such as formaldehyde and benzene. Because it is a succulent, it is extremely easy to care for and has little need of water. This plant, in particular, is one that can sit on a sunny corner of your desk otherwise forgotten, but it will continue to purify the air around you.
2. Spider Plant
Perhaps one of the most cost effective houseplants to purchase, it will constantly reproduce with little care. Simply cut off a baby spider and it will easily propagate. Spider plants have been found to clean benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene from the air, making them an excellent choice for you to purchase for your office.
3. Ficus (or Weeping Fig)
The weeping fig specifically targets benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene in the air. These may be present in carpeted areas, or where industrial solvents are used (typically associated with harsh cleaning products). Because it is much larger than many of the other plants mentioned here, and also because of its potentially finicky nature, it may require a bit more love and attention than most. It would make an idea office addition in environments that have a stable air temperature and lots of available sunlight.
4. Peace Lily
Peace lilies are not only beautiful, they also have a pleasant floral scent when in bloom. They typically bloom for much of the year, but even when not in bloom they are possibly one the most effective office plants for removing all types of contaminants from the air. This plant has been found to remove every single chemical studied by NASA in the Clean Air Study. If you struggle keeping houseplants alive, this is also a good alternative as it’s extremely hardy and will give you clear indications that it needs water by starting to wilt.
5. Snake Plant (or Mother-In Law’s Tongue)
Named for the way it resembles a snake, or alternately, once it starts it won’t stop; the Snake Plant is a potent air purifying house plant. It’s particularly happy in moist areas such as the bathroom. It is useful in cleaning formaldehyde from the air which is often found in many bathroom cleaning products, and toilet paper! Interestingly, the snake plant releases significantly more oxygen at night, which also would make it beneficial to have as a house plant in your bedroom.
6. Boston Fern
Despite being a very popular houseplant, many people probably do not realize it’s also a powerful air cleaner. It is able to target mold and other common toxins. In order to keep your Boston Fern happy, make sure to mist it daily (or keep it in the bathroom to absorb steam). It also only requires indirect light sources and is non-toxic to pets.