NASA Clean Air Study

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The NASA Clean Air Study[1] has been led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA). Its results suggest that certain common indoor plants may provide a natural way of removing toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air, helping neutralize the effects of sick building syndrome.

The first list of air-filtering plants was compiled by NASA as part of a clean air study published in 1989,[2][3][4] which researched ways to clean air in space stations. As well as absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, as all plants do, these plants also eliminate significant amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. The second and third list are from B. C. Wolverton's book[5] and paper[6] and focus on removal of specific chemicals.

NASA researchers suggest efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.[2] Other research has shown that micro-organisms in the potting mix (soil) of a potted plant remove benzene from the air, and that some plant species also contribute to removing benzene.[7]

Chart of air-filtering plants[edit]

Plant, removes: benzene[2] formaldehyde[2][5] trichloroethylene[2] xylene and toluene[6] ammonia[6]
Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) no Yes[5] no Yes no
Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) no Yes[5] no Yes no
Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') no Yes[5] no Yes no
Kimberly queen fern (Nephrolepis obliterata) no Yes[5] no Yes no
English ivy (Hedera helix) Yes Yes[5] Yes Yes no
Lilyturf (Liriope spicata) no Yes no Yes Yes
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) no Yes[2] no Yes no
Devil's ivy, Money plant (Epipremnum aureum) Yes Yes[2] no Yes no
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa') Yes Yes[5] Yes Yes Yes
Flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum) no Yes no Yes Yes
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) Yes[5][8] Yes[5][8] no no no
Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) no Yes[2][5] no Yes no
Broadleaf lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) no Yes no Yes Yes
Variegated snake plant, mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii') Yes[5] Yes[2] Yes[5] Yes no
Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron cordatum) no Yes[2] no no no
Selloum philodendron
(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)
no Yes[2] no no no
Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum) no Yes[2] no no no
Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata) Yes Yes[2] Yes Yes no
Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana') Yes Yes[2] Yes no no
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)[9] no Yes[5] no Yes no
Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) Yes Yes[5] Yes no no
Florist's chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) Yes Yes[2][5] Yes Yes Yes
Rubber plant (Ficus elastica) no Yes[5] no no no
Dendrobium orchids (Dendrobium spp.) no no no Yes no
Dumb canes (Dieffenbachia spp.) no no no Yes no
King of hearts (Homalomena wallisii) no no no Yes no
Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) no no no Yes no


Most of the plants on the list evolved in tropical or subtropical environments. Due to their ability to flourish on reduced sunlight, their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize well in household light.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BC Wolverton, WL Douglas, K Bounds (July 1989). A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement (Report). NASA. NASA-TM-108061. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Pottorff, L. Plants "Clean" Air Inside Our Homes. Colorado State University & Denver County Extension Master Gardener. 2010.
  3. ^ Wolverton, B. C., et al. (1984). Foliage plants for removing indoor air pollutants from energy-efficient homes. Economic Botany 38(2), 224-28.
  4. ^ Wolverton, B. C., et al. A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement: an interim report. NASA. July, 1989.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Wolverton, B. C. (1996) How to Grow Fresh Air. New York: Penguin Books.
  6. ^ a b c Wolverton, B. C. and J. D. Wolverton. (1993). Plants and soil microorganisms: removal of formaldehyde, xylene, and ammonia from the indoor environment. Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences 38(2), 11-15.
  7. ^ Orwell, R.; Wood, R.; Tarran, J.; Torpy, F.; Burchett, M. (2004). "Removal of Benzene by the Indoor Plant/Substrate Microcosm and Implications for Air Quality". Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 157 (1-4): 193–207. doi:10.1023/B:WATE.0000038896.55713.5b. 
  8. ^ a b Wolverton, B. C., et al. Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement: final report. NASA. September, 1989. pp 11-12.
  9. ^ American Society for Horticultural Science. Indoor plants can reduce formaldehyde levels. ScienceDaily. February 20, 2009. Quote: "...Complete plants removed approximately 80% of the formaldehyde within 4 hours. Control chambers pumped with the same amount of formaldehyde, but not containing any plant parts, decreased by 7.3% during the day and 6.9% overnight within 5 hours..." In reference to: Kim, J. K., et al. (2008). Efficiency of volatile formaldehyde removal by indoor plants: contribution of aerial plant parts versus the root zone. Horticultural Science 133: 479-627.

External links[edit]