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Plants That Filter The Air In Your Home From Toxic Chemicals (PHOTOS)

Huffington Post     First Posted: 10/07/10 08:52 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 06:55 PM ET

Cigarette smokers, nail polish buyers, and eager home fixer-uppers; you might want to listen up. The air in you house could be swimming with dangerous chemicals that cause dizziness, headaches, compromise your immune system, and even eventually lead to cancer.

While outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, it can be found in higher levels indoors. It comes from products like glue, paint, furniture wax, detergents and cigarette smoke. Benzene can cause long-term effects on bone marrow, with a decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia, and eventually leukemia. It can also compromise the immune system.

Formaldehyde can make its way into the home by way of pressed wood products like particle board for your floor, or hardwood plywood paneling on the wall or in furniture. It's also used on durable press drapes and other textiles, glues, and in tobacco smoke. Formaldehyde is suspected to cause cancer in humans.

Trichloroethylene, while mostly used in industrial settings, can be found in paint removers and strippers, adhesives, spot removers, and rug-cleaning fluid. It's another proven carcinogen, and has been loosely linked to miscarriages, though not conclusively.

Xylene can be found in cigarette smoke, paint removers, varnish, shellac, and rust preventatives. At low levels xylene can cause dizziness, confusion, lack of muscle coordination, and headaches.

If you do your nails or spray yourself with perfume often, you should be aware of toluene. It's not only found in nail polishes. It's used in the production of plastic soda bottles, pharmaceuticals and dyes, and like all the other chemicals, cigarette smoke. Toluene can cause central nervous system dysfunction and unconsciousness, and cardiac arrhythmia.

To combat these sneaky chemicals in your everyday products, we've plumbed NASA's list of air-filtering plants to bring you the most effective. We wouldn't say this neutralizes the effects of second-hand smoke, but if you're addicted to doing your toes every week in fire engine red, you might want to consider some of these potted plants as a natural antidote to some or all of these five chemicals.

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  • Boston Fern

    Filters formaldehyde.

  • Dendrobium

    Filters xylene and toluene.

  • Dracaena

    Red-edged dracaena, warneck dracaena, Janet Craig dracaena, cornstalk dracaena; all of these varieties filter out at least one of the listed chemicals.

  • Dumb Cane

    The Camilla and Exotica varieties of dumb cane both filter xylene and toluene.

  • English Ivy

    Filters benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

  • Gerbera Daisy

    Filters benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

  • Golden Pothos, Or Devil's Ivy

    Filters formaldehyde.

  • King Of Hearts

    Filters xylene and toluene. Correction: This outdoor plant, but you might consider it if you are worried about outdoor air quality as well.

  • Peace Lily

    Filters benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

  • Moth Orchid

    Filters xylene and toluene. Correction: We originally featured an image of a different orchid. The above orchid is a moth orchid.

  • Philodendron

    Filters formaldehyde.

  • Pot Mum

    Filters benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

  • Snake Plant, Or Mother-In-Law Tongue

    Filters formaldehyde.

  • Rubber Plant

    Filters formaldehyde.

  • Spider Plant

    Filters formaldehyde.

  • Weeping Fig

    Filters formaldehyde.

[Note: we've taken out the areca palm. It's a good filterer of xylene and toluene, but unfortunately we couldn't find an accurate picture for you.]