How Does Air Pollution Affect Plants?

We’ve talked a lot about how air pollution can impact your health. It can aggravate bronchitisaffect your sleep quality, and even lead to pregnancy complications. And we’re not the only ones it’s hurting. Air pollution affects plants, too. But how, and what can we do about it to keep our homes plant-friendly?

Keep reading.

Wait, Air Pollution Affects Plants?

You bet it does! First, it helps to remember that like humans, plants breathe. While we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, they do the opposite: They inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen.

Plants even have “mouths” (technical name: stomata). These are thousands of pores, typically on the underside of the plant’s leaves.



So what happens when plants are surrounded by air pollution?

Pollutants That Impact Plants

Exactly which pollutants could be causing damage to the plants around you? Let’s go through a few examples.

The University of Maryland says that ozone is one of the more common air pollutants, and it isn’t friendly to plants. Once the leaves absorb it through their stomata, ozone damages the cell membranes, causing them to collapse. The result can be stippling or flecking, which is the loss of pigment in little dots. The dots may be white, tan, purple, or black.

Peroxyacetyl nitrate, which is present in smog, is another culprit. Lower leaf surfaces might display a silver or tan glazing, as well as patches that are so thin they’re nearly transparent.

Sulfur dioxide, which is created when fossil fuels are burned, is yet another air pollutant that affects plants. Between the veins and along the edges of the plant’s leaves, look for areas that are ivory or brown in color.

Remember, too, that air pollutants might first make their way into the soil and then into the plants themselves.

What’s the Bigger Picture?

What does it ultimately mean if plants are exposed to air pollution?

Well, importantly, it can stunt their growth, mainly because air pollution interferes with their resource accumulation — according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Especially if the pollutants start in the soil, they first impair the roots of the plant and make it harder for the plant to get what it needs from the dirt, like minerals and water. And it only gets worse from there.

As a result, your houseplants might have a hard time flourishing and thriving. You might notice that it takes longer for flowers to develop, because the plant is too busy trying to survive the pollution.

Out in nature, on a much bigger scale, plants that are more vulnerable to air pollution might not be able to withstand the damage. This could lead to fluctuations in the different species making up a plant community. In other words, some plants will die out while others might not, throwing off the whole ecosystem. In fact, the European Environment Agency confirms that air pollution can reduce biodiversity.

Imagine this happening in agricultural environments where plants and crops are needed for business/economic reasons. Reduced growth rates and decreased yields could be catastrophic.

As we’ve already touched on, keep in mind that air pollution isn’t truly confined to the air. Airborne pollutants can find their way into the soil, as well as bodies of water, and then plants, and in many cases, ultimately us.

Don’t Plants Clean the Air?

Many of us keep plants in our homes because we’re certain they clean the air. But is this really the case? It turns out that the answer is… not really (unfortunately).



You’d need to maintain somewhere between 10 and 1,000 plants per square meter of your home in order to truly make a difference in the air quality. That’s what it would take to actually remove pollutants from the air and also create fresh oxygen to further offset air pollution.

Keeping houseplants indeed offers other benefits, but we can’t count on them to clean the air in our homes.

How Can We Reduce Indoor Air Pollution?

There are all sorts of things you can do to improve the air quality inside your home, where (we’re going to guess) you spend the majority of your time.

You should take care when using gas stoves and wood-burning stoves, as those pollute the air you breathe. Clean your home regularly to minimize dust, and if you’re going to burn candles, avoid candles made with paraffin wax. If you can, avoid wearing outdoor shoes inside, as that can introduce a ton of pollutants. Similarly, if you have pets who go outdoors, wipe them down when they come back in. They can carry undesirable particles inside on their paws and in their fur.

And this is just the beginning! There’s so much more you can do, but that’s exactly what makes cleansing the air so challenging. Even if you do all of these things, keeping the air clean can seem like an impossible task, especially because you usually can’t see air pollution. That’s where an air purifier comes in — it can detect things that humans never could.

Opt for an air purifier that has a medical-grade HEPA 13 filter, in addition to other layers of filtration, like activated carbon and UV-C light. These layers ensure that the purifier is capturing as much as 99.7% of the threatening particles floating through the air of your home — including dog fur, dander, human hair, mold/mold spores, dust/dust mites, harmful gases, smoke, and so much more.

The Sans air purifier excels where others fall short, monitoring your air quality in real time and running as needed, always alerting you when it’s time to replace the filter. It’s meditation quiet, so it’ll never disturb you when you’re sleeping or working. 

Whether you want a purifier that can cover the whole room or something smaller and more compact, Sans is here to help you breathe a little easier. 

Sans Air Purifier

HEPA 13 + UV-C + Activated Carbon Air Purification

Shop Now