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During winter time there comes smog to my town, consisting of:

Mechanical air purifiers use a combination of filters (including HEPA13) to remove particles and other substances but are pretty expensive. I am looking for a cheap alternative: plants that I could grow at home and that would purify the air from the mentioned substances.

Could you recommend any?

  • Interesting question. Plants are not 'purifiers'. Plants utilize CO2 and as a result of photosynthesis, plants make their own food, give off Oxygen, water. They inadvertently take up heavy metals, fluoride, some pesticides systemically but as far as an air 'purifier' I think that expectations of plants has become larger than reality. I don't know how much these substances have become a problem for you, where you live, what industries are contributors but plants will not be filtering out particulates. SO2 and NO2 are kind of our atmosphere and necessary. No matter, raising healthy plants – stormy Dec 10 '17 at 3:41
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    Shoot, the new label is Phytoremediation...to look up some great articles. – stormy Dec 11 '17 at 3:02
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    @stormy I appreciate all your feedback information about plants. But was the question should I move out of the city? No, I asked about plants recommendation, and implicitly, where such plants exists at all. – dzieciou Dec 11 '17 at 10:40
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    Naw, I was sharing what I learned about the capability of plants 'filtering' the air. I learned that they can be very beneficial for polluted soils and bogs. They DO 'filter' literally by using tiny hairs on the leaves, the undersides primarily, they do up take Ozone! But still, to truly be called a helpful 'filter' of the air, house plants or any plant will be set up to be a failure. All plants can be rationalized as 'cleaning' the air. Filtering particulates (as long as you blow those particulates right at them)...the phytoremediation is the WORD you can use for lists of these plants. – stormy Dec 11 '17 at 23:36
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    Here's another place to start digging: tha NASA clean air study (wikipedia article) – Chris H Dec 12 '17 at 9:19
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Whilst there are plants you can grow indoors to clean the air or absorb pollutants to an extent, the pollutants they've been shown to absorb are not any of the ones mentioned in your list, and are generally aimed at closed environments. They absorb pollutants from furniture and furnishings, MDF, dry cleaning fluids, etc, so things like trichlorethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. There is a list of those plants here in case you feel it's worthwhile getting some of them anyway https://greatist.com/connect/houseplants-that-clean-air. Certainly, they should improve the quality of the air in your home, even if they don't remove that particular list of pollutants.

Many plants do absorb No2, and there's some research that suggests they may also absorb particulates, but you'd have to have the equivalent of a garden indoors, because it's the quantity of growing greenery that makes a difference - just growing, say, three ivy plants will make little impact, but I would recommend having as many houseplants as possible anyway; if nothing else, they are at least giving out oxygen into the air indoors, and for all anyone knows, may be removing other pollutants we don't know they are because they've not been tested. Information on outdoor plants and pollutants here https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2012/acs-presspac-august-29-2012/green-plants-reduce-pollution-on-city-streets-up-to-eight-times-more-than-previously-believed.html. Which houseplants you choose will be down to conditions in the home in regard to availability of light and how much space you have. Some that tolerate low light conditions are Hedera helix varieties, Aspidistra eliator, Dracaena marginata. More recommendations for plants can be made once you advise on the particular conditions you can provide.

Your list of air pollutants includes two particulate matter types, with PM2.5 being the most dangerous, though PM10's aren't fantastic either. I'm afraid the only sure way to screen those from the air is by using a filter system, and a very efficient one at that - they are extremely expensive if they are effective. Otherwise, keeping the windows closed will significantly reduce the amount in the air in your home, or using fine mesh over the aperture (though this will only reduce PM10s, not PM2.5s). I know this because I live in London, UK, where we frequently have days at a time where people with chest or other health problems (asthma, COPD, cardiac problems) are advised to stay inside until the air clears, and people without health problems are advised to do nothing strenuous out of doors. We suffer the same pollutants in the air outside, though ozone is a much bigger issue than sulfur dioxide here, since we stopped burning coal.

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    Now Ozone is a big problem where plants are able to mitigate, mediate, phytoremediate...but still they are only able to do something with air that they interact with. Which is minuscule. – stormy Dec 11 '17 at 3:06
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I don't think there are plants that could really help you (indoor, small surface, noticeable effect, for your your city air), but some comments:

Plants are also source of particles, so too many plants in closed environment could also cause problems.

More surface will help deposit (or absorb) PM, so I would try with some Christmas tree (but conifers are producer of PMx), or moss as "top substrate" of pots.

For the "gardening" part: spray irrigation is more effective then plants, to reduce PMx particles. So maybe some orchids irrigation could help (but I'm not a fanatic of orchids, so comments are welcome).

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