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NASA Clean Air Study

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One of the plants in this study is Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

The NASA Clean Air Study was a project led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) in 1989, to research ways to clean the air in sealed environments such as space stations. Its results suggested that, in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, certain common indoor plants may also provide a natural way of removing volatile organic pollutants (benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene were tested).[1]

These results are not applicable to typical buildings, where outdoor-to-indoor air exchange already removes VOCs at a rate that could only be matched by the placement of 10–1000 plants/m2 of a building's floor space.[2]

The results also failed to replicate in future studies, with a 2014 review stating that:[3]

While the plant's ability to take up VOCs is well documented in laboratory studies, the effect of plants on indoor air in complex environments like offices requires further investigations to clarify the full capacity of plants in real-life settings.

List of plants studied[edit]

The following plants were tested during the initial 1989 study:[4]

Additional research[edit]

Since the release of the initial 1989 study, titled A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement: An Interim Report,[6] further research has been done including a 1993 paper[7] and 1996 book[8] by B. C. Wolverton, the primary researcher on the original NASA study, that listed additional plants and focused on the removal of specific chemicals. A different study in 2004 has also shown that the micro-organisms in the soil of a potted plant remove benzene from the air, and that some plant species themselves also contribute to removing benzene.[9]

Other studies[edit]

Plants studied in various similar studies on air filtration:

Plant, removes: benzene[10] Total μg/h of benzene removed[10] formaldehyde[10][8][7] Total μg/h of formaldehyde removed[10][7] trichloroethylene[10] Total μg/h of trichloroethylene removed[10] xylene and toluene[7] ammonia[7]
Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) No Yes[8] 1,385[7] No Yes No
Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) No Yes[8] No Yes No
Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') No Yes[8] 1,863[7] No Yes No
Kimberley queen fern (Nephrolepis obliterata) No Yes[8] 1,328[7] No Yes No
English ivy (Hedera helix) Yes 579 Yes[8] 402[10] -1,120[7] Yes 298 Yes No
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) No Yes[10] 560[7] No Yes No
Devil's ivy, Pothos plant (Epipremnum aureum) Yes Yes[10] No Yes No
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa') Yes 1,725 Yes[8] 674[10] Yes 1,128 Yes Yes
Flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum) No Yes No Yes Yes
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) Yes[8][11] 604 Yes[8][11] 183[4] No No No
Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) Yes 1,420 Yes[10][8] 3,196[10] Yes 688 Yes No
Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) Yes Yes[7] 660[7] Yes Yes[7] Yes[7]
Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) Yes Yes[7] 876[7] Yes Yes[7] Yes[7]
Variegated snake plant, mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii') Yes[8] 1,196[4] Yes[10] 1,304[10] Yes[8] 405 Yes No
Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron cordatum) No Yes[10] 353[10] No No No
Selloum philodendron
(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)
No Yes[10] 361[10] No No No
Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum) No Yes[10] 416[10] No No No
Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata) Yes 1,264 Yes[10] 853[10] Yes 1,137 Yes No
Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana') Yes Yes[10] 938[7] Yes 421 Yes No
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)[5] No Yes[8] 940[7] No Yes No
Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) Yes 4,486 Yes[8] Yes 1,622 No No
Florist's chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) Yes 3,205 Yes[10][8] 1,450[7] Yes Yes Yes
Rubber plant (Ficus elastica) No Yes[8] No No No
Dendrobium orchids (Dendrobium spp.) No Yes[7] 756[7] No Yes No
Dumb canes (Dieffenbachia spp.) No Yes[7] 754[7] No Yes No
King of hearts (Homalomena wallisii) No Yes[7] 668[7] No Yes No
Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) No Yes[7] 240[7] No Yes No
Aloe vera (Aloe vera) Yes[12] Yes No No No
Janet Craig (Dracaena fragrans "Janet Craig/Cornstalk Plant") Yes[1] 1,082 Yes[1] 1,361[7] - 2,037[10] Yes[1] 764 Yes[7] No
Warneckei (Dracaena deremensis "Warneckei") Yes[1] 1,630 Yes[1] 760[7] Yes[1] 573 Yes[7] No
Banana (Musa acuminata) No Yes[1] 488[10] No No No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h BC Wolverton; WL Douglas; K Bounds (September 1989). Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement (Report). NASA. NASA-TM-101766.
  2. ^ Cummings, Bryan E.; Waring, Michael S. (March 2020). "Potted plants do not improve indoor air quality: a review and analysis of reported VOC removal efficiencies". Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. 30 (2): 253–261. doi:10.1038/s41370-019-0175-9. PMID 31695112. S2CID 207911697.
  3. ^ Dela Cruz, M; Christensen, JH; Thomsen, JD; Müller, R (2014). "Can ornamental potted plants remove volatile organic compounds from indoor air? – a review" (PDF). Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 21 (24): 13909–13928. doi:10.1007/s11356-014-3240-x. PMID 25056742. S2CID 207272189. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Wolverton, B. C., et al. A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement: an interim report. NASA. September, 1989.
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ Wolverton, B. C. (July 1989). "A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement: An Interim Report" (PDF). Retrieved 3 May 2020. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Wolverton, B. C. and J. D. Wolverton. (1993). Plants and soil microorganisms: removal of formaldehyde, xylene, and ammonia from the indoor environment. Archived 2016-02-05 at the Wayback Machine Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences 38(2), 11-15.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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, & Soil Pollution. 157 (1–4): 193–207. Bibcode:2004WASP..157..193O. doi:10.1023/B:WATE.0000038896.55713.5b. S2CID 59469964.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Pottorff, Laura. Plants "Clean" Air Inside Our Homes. Colorado State University & Denver County Extension Master Gardener. 2010.
  11. ^ a b Wolverton, B. C., et al. Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement: final report. NASA. September, 1989. pp 11-12.
  12. ^ "15 houseplants for improving indoor air quality". MNN - Mother Nature Network. Retrieved 2016-01-04.

External links[edit]