This article provides a brief overview of scientific efforts to determine whether common houseplants can help filter toxins from the air. After nearly a quarter century of debate, a new study from researchers at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, shows startling results. The study, published in the journal
Water, Air and Soil Pollution, tested the impact of plants on air quality in 60 different offices and found that as few as six small potted plants reduced overall toxin levels by 75 percent. Even more startling, the houseplants tested were better filters during weeks when pollution levels were high, and performance
waned when the air was purer.
The author notes that office ventilation systems can introduce pollution faster than a plant can remove it, and critics note that if clean air is pumped into a room, it’s hard to gauge the actual contribution of the plants. According to the article the consensus seems to be that plants alone are limited in their ability to reduce toxins indoors “unless a large amount of plantings are dispersed throughout a building … although two or three plants will make a big difference for the average room.” Palms, ferns, dracaena, rubber plants and peace lilies are particularly hard workers.