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How to Test the Air Purifying Properties of Plants Native to Your Area

Updated on December 21, 2012
Plants have air purification properties that can  help improve your air quality.
Plants have air purification properties that can help improve your air quality.

One of the new raves in the green movement is the idea that you can purify the air in your home with plants. Many people are writing about plants that were tested by NASA and other scientists and that are known as common knowledge to be effective at certain pollutants in the air. But what should not be lost in all of this is that there are many plants that have not been tested. The ones written about are not the only ones that can clean the air. There may very well be local plants to your area that are effective in removing contaminants from the air. All you need is a few tools and the space to test and you can figure out what plants are effective in air purification in your area.

Plant Air Purifier Testing Tools

If you are going to test the air cleaning properties of plants you will need a few good tools. Remember, your not trying to publish a scientific study, you just want to find out what plants reduce certain types of pollutants. You will want the following:

  • A good quality particle counter
  • A good quality VOC meter
  • A room that you can use for your testing
  • An air purifier that can remove pollutants from the room if the plants you are testing do not.

Testing Plants for Air Purifying Properties

When you set out to test a plant, you will have to test one thing at a time. For this reason, its better to test specifically for common critical pollutants in the air such as: particles, and VOCs like trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde. To do this you will need to have some kind of dispersal system for placing higher quantities of one of these chemicals in the room so you can measure the plants ability to remove it. Before you start assessing the plant's ability to remove the particles or compounds, you need to establish what is called the control. The control is the standard to which you compare the plant's rate at which it is able to remove the particles or compounds. To establish the control, you will want to measure the natural rate of decay of a certain concentration of that compound in the room you are using. You do this by simply measuring how fast the compound dissipates from the room without any plants or other air purifying agents working in the room. Then you measure the rate at which the compound disappears when the plant is in the room. You will want to do this for each of the key pollutants you have identified as ones you would like plants to be removing from your home.

Narrowing the Focus of Your Plant Search

Testing to identify plants that remove certain pollutants can feel overwhelming, especially when you realize that you need a multiplicity of plants to provide effective clean air in the home. Technology advances in air purification mean that some of the air purification technologies on the market directly replicate the natural processes nature uses to clean the air. Plants are most effective as a support to leading air purification technology because they allow you to target specific gas compounds that even the best air purification technology is not effective against. In our technologically advanced world, cleaning the home only with plants is not likely to happen. But using plants for specialty purposes in air purification is very effective.


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