Potted plants can remove the pollutant nitrogen dioxide indoors

Curtis Gubb, Tijana Blanusa, Alistair Griffiths, Christian Pfrang*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a significant pollutant in both outdoor and indoor environments with exposure linked to serious respiratory illnesses, decreased lung function and airway inflammation. Here, we investigate whether potted plants can contribute as a simple and cost-effective indoor air pollution mitigation technique. Our study investigates the ability of the combination of the three plant species Spathiphyllum wallisii ‘Verdi’, Dracaena fragrans ‘Golden Coast’ and Zamioculcas zamiifolia with two different growing media to remove in situ concentrations (100 ppb) of NO2 in real-time at two typical indoor light levels (0 and 500 lx) and in ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ growing media conditions. All studied ‘growing medium–plant systems’ were able to reduce NO2 concentrations representative of a polluted urban environment, but to varying degrees. The greatest NO2 removal measured inside a 150 L chamber over 1-h period in ‘wet’ growing media at ~ 500 lx was achieved by D. fragrans. When accounting for dilution, this would correspond to a removal of up to 3 ppb NO2 per m2 of leaf area over the 1-h test period and 0.62 ppb per potted plant over the same period when modelled for a small office (15 m3) in a highly polluted environment. Depending on building ventilation rates and NO2 concentration gradients at the indoor-outdoor interface that will vary massively between polluted urban and rural locations, potted plants offer clear potential to improve indoor air quality—in particular in confined indoor spaces that are poorly ventilated and/or located in highly polluted areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-490
Number of pages12
JournalAir Quality, Atmosphere & Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The authors would also like to thank Dr Louisa Kramer, Dr Leigh Crilley, Weizhang Zhang, Rob Stirling, David Tubbs, Dr Nicholas Davidson and Eimear Orgill for their practical guidance and support.

Funding Information:
Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Indoor air quality
  • Indoor plants
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Potted plants
  • Pollutants


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