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Can houseplants clean wildfire smoke?

 
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Just musing based on two news stories I read back to back.  One was about the type of molecules houseplants take out of the air the other about the kind of molecules wildfire smoke put into the air.

I also noticed that the right type of trees make little pockets of clean air during wildfire smog season.

It looks like we will be smothered with smoke a couple of months early this year.  I'm wondering if houseplants have any place in cleaning the household air during smoke season?  
 
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I'm thinking lot's of plants outside to keep the smoke from getting in?

I'm guessing you'd need a *lot* of indoor plants, the right kind for the substances you're most worried about, but they actually use oxygen at night went not photosynthesizing - so too many and you'll need more air exchange which will allow more smoke in?

Very interesting question, and I suspect the answer is very complicated. Is it worth posting the articles you read - or at least a precis?
 
r ranson
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Sadly I cleaned my browser history,  so I don't think I could find the plant one.

I suspect that the smoke one was related to the BCCDC.
 
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I dont think they help enough.
We had fires in Victoria, Australia for months last summer and some towns did not have clear air for a long time, perhaps 6-8 weeks from memory.
The health issues that arose were startling, including unborn babes being effected.
So  if you can do something worthwhile it will help.

coping with bushfire smoke
and I see air purifiers work very well but there are complications.

Buying guide for air purifiers

And from this site the special words are these;
Air purifiers
Air purifiers with a high efficiency particle air (HEPA) filter are able to reduce the number of fine particles indoors.
To work well, the air purifier must be matched to the size of the  room it is in and the room must be well sealed.
Humidifiers, negative ion generators and odour absorbers do not remove fine particles in bushfire smoke
.protect yourself from bushfire smoke
 
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I mean the NASA studies on indoor air quality houseplants I'd wonder why more folk don't have more plants. Whether or not it's filled to the brim with plants, it's def not going to hurt anything to have a few spider plants in ones room. I'm not going to not breathe what it provides. I think houseplants help with house smells too.

I don't want dark skies like last year for smoke. We've got an air purifier now, it's helping our faces now for sure.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:I'm thinking lot's of plants outside to keep the smoke from getting in?



I've been thinking about this and we have one side of the house where there is a row of plum trees.  Between the house and the trees there is very little smoke or ash during wildfire season.  What's more, we can leave the windows open on that side of the house during smoke season.

A bit of a time investment to grow the trees, but it's paying off.  Because the drop the leaves each fall, we can get a lot of sunlight in those windows in the winter but shade during the hotter seasons.  
 
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As others have indicated, by all means have lots of house plants.  I would also have a real nice air filter.
 
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In my memory, from a research deep-dive that I did years ago concerning biological air purification, a wee tid-bit of a thought:

The roots of house-plants have a tremendous amount of purifying potential, but that is limited by the sub-soil air exchange.  It seems to follow that open or porous pots may increase purification.  (i.e. peat pot > terra cotta > glazed ceramic > plastic).  I remember wondering if water-potted philodendron with an air bubbler might prove effective.
 
Beau Davidson
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We once smoked out our house with a kitchen fire.  It was horrendous.  Obviously we scrubbed and washed everything, but the biggest take-aways were the power of plants, and the power of activated charcoal.

Plants everywhere, all kinds of pots, all kinds of plants.  Also, dusting the leaves daily/weekly during bad air times.

The other life-saver were the pans/dishes/socks of activated charcoal, especially in front of air movement, to trap airborn particulate.  I hung old panty hose filled with charcoal in various places, in front of ducts and fans, etc.

Now we have a nice Molekule air purifier, but I will still litter the house with lovely bowls of activited charcoal, pretending it's decor while diabolically laughing myself to sleep in the dramatically improved air quality.

We used to buy aquarium charcoal.  Now I mostly make it myself, or rescue it from various burny activities.  Some is more activited than others, but every little bit helps.

I will periodically boil old charcoal to reopen the pores, although usaully it's more expedient and energy efficient to compost the old bits and grab some new stuff, as it's pretty abundant these days.

I've also done some work in making activated charcoal wall-hanging decor from tree and root limbs.  If you can manage the smudges, they are beautiful and effective.

 
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Beau, I could use a primer on what charcoal is “activated” and how to reactivate…

All I know is briquettes don’t qualify, and charcoal comes from incomplete combustion of wood, which process creates and releases various substances I  don’t really want in the air I breathe …(with apologies to those who disagree,  including the production of “biochar”)

Thanks
 
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https://www.ourhouseplants.com/guides/50-plants-that-clean-the-air
Nasa did a study, I cant find it at the moment but here is one with 50 plants. I remember Nasa study saying which plants clean Formaldehyde from the air and other nasty off gassing things. Like Spider plants, snake plants, aloe, etc. He Talks about the Nasa study in this above article.
 
Beau Davidson
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Beau, I could use a primer on what charcoal is “activated” and how to reactivate…

All I know is briquettes don’t qualify, and charcoal comes from incomplete combustion of wood, which process creates and releases various substances I  don’t really want in the air I breathe …(with apologies to those who disagree,  including the production of “biochar”)

Thanks



Yes, briquettes are *not* the thing.  And you know almost as much about it as I can tell you, at this point.  There are numbers and specs for that sort of thing, which I have not retained over the years.  I'm sure some permie folk can fill in the gaps.  What I have now is a purely functional understanding.

Truly activated carbon is combusted at a certain temparature for a certain time in an oxygen-free environment.  It probably depends on the material and conditions.

When achieving lab-level activation, what you're doing is creating a highly porous carbon material, with a truly massive surface area, with a highly negative electrical charge.  I just asked the Goog for specs, and it says:

Due to its high degree of microporosity, one gram of activated carbon has a surface area in excess of 3,000 m2 (32,000 sq ft) as determined by gas adsorption.


and

The surface of activated charcoal has a negative electrical charge. This negative charge is like a magnet that causes positively charged toxins, gases and elements to attracted and bond.



That's cool, and that's what you can expect from purchased "activated carbon."  But then you have plastic, shipping, energy resources for firing, and materials harvesting methods to worry about.  That's why I quit buying it.

You can achieve relatively complete activation by loading up a sealed metal bucket or can with with woody bits and building a fire around it.  Or you can just burn some wood nice and hot and then douse it in water at a certain point of combustion.

Most of what I use these days is a very sloppy method, with a high variation of activation, but it's free, requires no added inputs, and is a waste byproduct of other processes - namely the 3-5 small open fires we have per year, for various reasons.  Think the last smoldering logs from a camp-fire, submerged in a tub of water at the end of the evening.  For two years now, I've been using charcoal from the last glowing logs of a fire I used to make Holzer's bone sauce recipe.  I like that it's chunky instead of powdery.  My kids use it for sidewalk chalk.  I incorporate it into plaster finishes.  I grind it up with baking soda to use instead of toothpaste.  I'll even toss a chunk into my water bottle before a long trip to keep it from going manky, and to take some of the stank out of any emergency refills from a less-than-optimal water source.  It's like a bottomless bucket that I just can't seem to use up, no matter how hard I try.  
 
Jay Angler
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Here's a link to the biochar forum where lot's more info is available: https://permies.com/f/190/biochar

I imagine adding it to the soil of one's houseplants (they generally say it can replace 10% of soil if I recall correctly) would help both the plants and the house air quality. I regularly add it to my compost and to my seed starting mixes, directly or indirectly. When I have enough, I add it to my duck run bedding, which later ends up in my compost... stacking functions!
 
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I have no data to back this up but, I would think ferns would be a good indoor plant that could help to "filter" the room air just based on the surface area of all those leaves...?
 
Opal-Lia Palmer
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John Duffy wrote:I have no data to back this up but, I would think ferns would be a good indoor plant that could help to "filter" the room air just based on the surface area of all those leaves...?



Your intuition would be correct Sir. A certain type of fern is listed on the Nasa study as one of the air cleaning plants.
 
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