In the 1970s experts at the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) found more than 100 volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that were being released from inside the Skylab spacecraft. This fact caused them to realize that indoor air pollutants could be hazardous to the health of astronauts and anyone who was in an enclosed environment.
In 1984 NASA published studies on the use of indoor plants that could remove VOCs from sealed test chambers. It seems the leaves of some plants absorb certain organic chemicals and destroy them through a natural process called metabolic breakdown.
The plants are:
• Areca palm: removes xylene and toluene (found in gasoline fumes)
• Bamboo palm: removes benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene (a chlorinated hydrocarbon used in cleaning solvents)
• Boston fern: removes various toxins, especially formaldehyde
• Dracaena Janet Graig: removes trichloroethylene
• Dwarf date palm: removes various toxins, especially xylene
• Ficus alii: this is a fairly new hybrid that helps remove toxins
• Lady palm: a species of fan palm, it is cultivated in China and popular in the United States; improves indoor air quality
• Peace lily: removes various alcohols, acetone (cleaning solvent found in nail polish remover and paint thinner), benzene (a cancer-causing chemical found in cigarette smoke, gasoline fumes), formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene
Oyabu T et al. Purification characteristics of golden pothos for atmospheric gasoline. International Journal of Phytoremediation 2003; 5(3): 267-76