Skip the Mask; Grab a Plant

With all the buzz about swine flu going around, the temptation to wear a mask is making people more aware than ever of what they're breathing. First of all, wash your hands! I know, that has nothing to do with breathing, but it seems to be the universal best preventant of H1N1, so do it . . . often!

Okay, back to what we're breathing. Did you know the peace lily ("The peace what?" You know, those plants you get when a baby's born, when you go to the hospital, or when there's a funeral. The ones with long green leaves and one or more white lilies unswirling their white petals as they reach toward the sun . . . yeah, those plants!) is ranked as one of the top ten air-purifying houseplants?

We all learned in elementary school that plants take the CO2 and turn it into oxygen. But our teachers didn't spend much time teaching us that plants can take a lot more than just carbon dioxide out of the air. It turns out, plants are one of the the most effective filters for clearning the air of toxins too. A study in Australia found that air toxicity levels decreased by 75 percent with just six plants added to a room. Seventy-five percent!

It gets better! The same article states: "The World Health Organization blames bad indoor air for nearly 3 percent of diseases. Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, where air is more polluted than outside and can contain more than 900 volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, according to the EPA."

So think about getting some greens to clean up the air in your home. Put one in the office to filter the toxic flame retardants in your PC, laser printer, and TV dust. Make a peace lily a must-have for the baby's room. And consider buying a bamboo palm with your next new furniture purchase to filter all those new-furniture chemical smells and retardants lurking within the upholstery. For an easy-to-read chart that targets toxin sources and the plants to combat them, check out this guide.

Some plants to consider to get you started (you'll have to look these up if you don't recognize their names, but that's why God invented Google, right?): Eureka palm, peace lily, lady palm, bamboo palms, and rubber plant. Happy planting (or in my case, happy trying-t0-remember-to-water-so-my-plants-don't-die-and-my-husband-scorns-my-plea-to-buy-another-plant-to-replace-it-because-"You'll just kill it.")

**And if you're having trouble keeping your peace lily alive (my thumb is more of a murky yellow rather than green), try tea!

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