Who hasn’t browsed the air purifiers at Sharper Image or Brookstone and wondered if indoor air might actually be kind of gross. Whether the high-end air purifiers really do anything to help us breathe is up for debate, according to consumer advocates, but the good ones certainly do remove spores, dust particles, other particulates, and allergens from the air around us. That’s the good – the bad and the ugly is that some air purifiers create ozone in the process.
So why do Americans spend something like $250 million annually on air purifiers if people in the scientific community aren’t really sold on the benefits? Easy: Gas stoves, oil heaters, smoke, deteriorating insulation, off gassing from carpets and mattresses, pets shedding, pollen, mold growth, circulating dust, etc. In newer structures built to be airtight for heating and cooling efficiency, all that stuff stays put inside instead of potentially flowing out with drafts. And in older structures, you end up with more of the dust and particulates. Either way, your indoor air – especially in the wintertime – may not be all that great.
If you think it’s starting to sound like there’s not much any of us can do to improve indoor air quality, you might be right. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, as long as trying doesn’t mean spending gobs of money on air purifiers that are actually putting more pollutants into the air or air purifiers that have been shown in tests to do absolutely nothing to the air. One interesting (and green, in the literal sense) solution I’ve seen is Paris-based LaboGroup’s ANDREA air purifier.
A small fan constantly draws polluted indoor air through the ANDREA, across the plant leaves and through the soil, where active microbes live, effectively cleaning certain yucky things out of the air. According to LaboGroup, just about any plant can thrive inside the clear bubble, and the company’s tests show that the ANDREA is 44 times better at picking up a molecule of formaldehyde than a standard HEPA filter.
Me? I like spider plants, and not just inside of fancy plant-based air purifiers, either. They might not filter out particulates, but they’re apparently good at removing volatile organic chemicals from the air and there’s no need to spend money on more if you love them. I started with one free spider plant baby about the side of a deck of cards and now have three giant spider plants, all of which are producing more and more babies.