Those plants in your house are not boosting your home's air quality

accreditation
Indoor plants don't have a great effect on air quality.
Indoor plants don't have a great effect on air quality.

Don't count on potted plants to keep your home's air clean.

Dispelling a common belief, researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia found that natural ventilation does a far better job than houseplants in maintaining air quality in homes and offices.

Plants not fast enough

"This has been a common misconception for some time. Plants are great, but they don't actually clean indoor air quickly enough to have an effect on the air quality of your home or office environment," said Michael Waring, head of Drexel's indoor environment research group.

His team analysed dozens of studies conducted over 30 years. Their findings were published online in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

The researchers said air-exchange rates indoors – either natural or from ventilation – dilute concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) far faster than plants can pull them from the air. VOCs are the air pollutants that plants are supposed to clean.

Many of the studies reviewed did find that plants reduced concentrations of VOCs over time. This likely led to the widespread belief that plants can purify indoor air, the study authors said.

But it would take between 10 and 1 000 plants per square meter of floor space to match the air cleaning capacity of a building's air-handling system or even just a couple of open windows in a house, the investigators found.

"This is certainly an example of how scientific findings can be misleading or misinterpreted over time," Waring said in a university news release.

"But it's also a great example of how scientific research should continually reexamine and question findings to get closer to the ground truth of understanding what's actually happening around us," he added.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 2519 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
52% - 12650 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 8292 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 822 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.88
-0.1%
Rand - Pound
20.10
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
17.04
-0.2%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.67
-0.1%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.4%
Gold
1,753.51
-0.3%
Silver
19.29
-1.3%
Palladium
2,145.00
-0.6%
Platinum
908.50
-0.6%
Brent Crude
96.59
+3.0%
Top 40
64,026
-0.3%
All Share
70,821
-0.3%
Resource 10
63,394
-0.8%
Industrial 25
87,142
+0.3%
Financial 15
16,054
-0.9%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE