How To Reduce VOCs For Better Asthma Care

I dream of having a room in my future home that essentially resembles a thick rainforest. I imagine draping vines from the ceiling and potted plants sprouting out from the corners. Each shelf will sport a cute succulent, and ferns will creep out of niches. I love ferns, palms, mosses, cacti, succulents, and all plants in between. I’m what you might call a crazy plant lady.

And guess what? My obsession with house plants is actually a good thing! Plants absorb CO2 and release oxygen. Plants can also act as filters for the air, and remove unhealthy pollutants called, volatile organic compounds, in your indoor environment. If you are a modern-day city dweller, you may find yourself spending a lot of your time indoors. Putting plants throughout your home is a way to bring the clean outdoor air inside.

What are VOCs?

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are invisible and scentless. Furniture, plastics, cleaners, paint, insulation and fabrics found in the home can all contain volatile organic compounds. These compounds contain nasty chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and ethylbenzene.

Since these compounds are considered toxic, they can have a negative impact on your respiratory health. They are nearly impossible to avoid but lurk in all offices, houses, and schools. They sound menacing, there a several things you can do to counteract VOCs.1

How to reduce VOCs in your home

To limit the amount of VOCs that enter your home in the first place, opt for more natural materials such as wood. Plastics and particleboard materials can have higher concentration of VOCs. This can be hard to avoid, especially if you already have existing furniture. If this is the case, you can ensure you have proper air ventilation in your home. Open the windows when the weather allows, and incorporate indoor plants. Not only do plants intake C02, but they can also sequester toxic VOCs into their leaves and stems.1

House plants and VOCs

For someone with asthma, more oxygen and a natural air filter in the house could be beneficial. Certain plants have pollen or allergens, so these should be avoided if these are triggers for you. However, there are many plants that should not be a trigger, and are effective for filtering the air of toxic compounds.

VOCs are dangerous for everyone, but studies show that these compounds can increase the severity of your asthma. Luckily, studies have also shown that once plants have been placed throughout a household, there is a quantifiable amount of VOCs removed from the environment.

Not a green thumb?

Have no fear; there are many plants that require little care. A study published by Environmental Health Perspectives2 cited a list of the top ten plants based on ease of maintenance, effectiveness in removing chemicals, resistance to infection, and transpiration (water movement through the plant and release through its' leaves). The top ten plants are listed as:

  1. Areca palm
  2. Lady palm
  3. Bamboo palm
  4. Rubber plant
  5. Dracaena
  6. English Ivy
  7. Dwarf date palm
  8. Ficus
  9. Boston fern
  10. Peace lily2

Keep plants chemical-free!

When shopping for these plants, try to avoid buying plants that have been grown with chemical pesticides (which could be another trigger!). You can avoid chemical pesticides by visiting a farmer's market or nursery, and ask around for organically grown plants. Make sure you get directions for how frequently to water your plants. Overwatering plants can lead to mold in the root or soil, and this can also negatively impact your respiratory system.3

Keep all these tips in mind while you let your plant obsession run wild! Do you currently have indoor house plants? Which ones, and where do you keep them in your house?

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