First, we want to know what “TCE” is and why we want it out of our air. TCE is short hand for trichloroethylene and it is probably in most of our homes and perhaps our work spaces as well. While it is no longer commercially acceptable due to its possible carcinogenic qualities, it was once found in paints, adhesives, dry cleaning fluids, lacquer, varnish and printing ink. Depending on the age of your home or work space, it is entirely possible that TCE is persistent in some of the surfaces there or perhaps even in the soil surrounding the building.
And while we still don’t have inexpensive ways to determine whether the soil we are gardening in is contaminated, there are ways to use plants to pull contaminants out of the air. (A suggestion: If you have any suspicion that there may be toxins in your soil, build raised beds and garden in those–at least with respect to your edible crops!)
NASA found that the top plants for cleaning the air of TCE (in a 24 hour period) were as follows:
Gerber Daisy (this one surprised me) but this plant cleaned the air better than all the other plants combined. It removed an astonishing 38,000 plus micrograms (mcg)in the 24 hour period!
Dracena marginata and Peace Lily (spathiphyllum) were next best, each removing over 27,000 mcg per plant!
Janet Craig dracena removed over 18,000 mcg per plant.
And finally, the bamboo palm removed over 16,000 mcg per plant.
All of these plants are readily available to this day in garden centers, box stores and even some supermarkets.
So if you’re concerned about an upcoming renovation where paint strippers–or even paint that’s not low VOC might be used–these are the plants to bring in and put around to take the TCE out of the air.