As much as I love houseplants for their beauty, and the homeyness I think they lend to any room, there is another good reason to have them. In his book "How To Grow Fresh Air", Dr. B. C. Wolverton synthesizes 25 years of research on indoor air quality, and explains how we can prevent Sick Building Syndrome, which can cause allergic and respiratory problems. Since most Americans spend about 95% of their time indoors, this is very important information.
Wolverton worked for NASA, teaming with others to find ways to keep air breathable in space stations, and potentially in sealed modular housing that could be used to inhabit other planets. They studied what chemicals building materials, furniture, and appliances and electronics off-gas into the indoor atmosphere, and which plants most effectively remove certain gasses and toxins.
I appreciated the careful explanation of what chemicals are present in our buildings, and what effect they have on our health. Wolverton is able to make this information accessible to some one like me, who does not have a strong background in chemistry. He gives a clear review of the process of plant respiration.
After you learn all this information, there is a good chapter on caring for the plants. Then, most helpful of all, is an extensive list of plants to choose from, with photos, care information, and an explanation of which chemicals that particular plant is good at removing from the environment. For instance, some plants are very useful used in close proximity to computer equipment, some are especially good in bedrooms, since they do more of their breathing at night, when you are sleeping there, and so on.
I loved this book for it's readability, accessible research, and the way it broadened my understanding of the symbiotic relationship we have with the plant kingdom. If you are new to the houseplant world, you should be able to get off to a good start with the growing information. If you are an old hand at it, you will still learn plenty of interest to you. If you are interested in environmental issues, and how to live in a less toxic space, this book would definitely be of use to you, as well.
I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars.