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Want to Breathe Easier Indoors? Get These Houseplants

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If you’re concerned with the quality of indoor air, you might want to head to a plant nursery. Ask for a bromeliad—the family of tropical plants that includes pineapples. 

New research presented at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in Philadelphia this week finds that in lieu of a ventilation system, houseplants can effectively clean chemicals like ammonia from the air, but some species are better than others. 

A team led by chemist Vadoud Niri of the State University of New York at Oswego tested five different common indoor plants in sealed chambers, analyzing how effective they were at scrubbing the air of eight different volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, chemicals that easily become gases. Paint, furniture, cleaning supplies, and other common household objects can emit high quantities of harmful gases like acetone and formaldehyde. 

“Inhaling large amounts of VOCs can lead some people to develop sick building syndrome, which reduces productivity and can even cause dizziness, asthma, or allergies,” Niri explains in a press release

Plants can absorb many of these chemicals, much as they do carbon dioxide, through their leaves and roots. However, Niri found that certain plants may be more effective for removing particular chemicals than others. The dracaena plant (a family of trees and succulents largely native to Africa) was especially effective at removing acetone from the air, for instance, absorbing 94 percent of the VOC present in the sealed chamber. This would likely make it an especially useful plant in nail salons, as acetone used in nail polish remover can cause headaches and dizziness, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The bromeliad plant, meanwhile, was the best general-usage air purifier, absorbing 80 percent of six of the eight VOCs studied. 

These findings will need to be tested in a larger setting, since the effect may be lessened in a full room rather than a small sealed chamber. However, previous research backs up the hypothesis. A 2009 study found that plants cleansed indoor air of ozone better than in a control chamber. And because plants are so cheap compared to installing new ventilation and air purification systems, more people would likely have access to safer air if these results bear out. But either way, it’s not a bad idea to buy a few plants for your desk and home. At worst, it will make you more productive

If you can’t figure out how to get more plants into your house, check out our tips for greening up any indoor space. 

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

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Pop Culture
The House From The Money Pit Is For Sale

Looking for star-studded new digs? For a cool $5.9 million, Top10RealEstateDeals.com reports, you can own the Long Island country home featured in the 1986 comedy The Money Pit—no renovations required.

For the uninitiated, the film features Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as hapless first-time homeowners who purchase a rundown mansion for cheap. The savings they score end up being paltry compared to the debt they incur while trying to fix up the house.

The Money Pit featured exterior shots of "Northway," an eight-bedroom estate located in the village of Lattingtown in Nassau County, New York. Luckily for potential buyers, its insides are far nicer than the fictional ones portrayed in the movie, thanks in part to extensive renovations performed by the property’s current owners.

Amenities include a giant master suite with a French-style dressing room, eight fireplaces, a "wine wall," and a heated outdoor saltwater pool. Check out some photos below, or view the entire listing here.

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

[h/t Top10RealEstateDeals.com]

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Live Smarter
How to Keep Your Water Pipes From Freezing This Winter
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Recently, a frozen pipe burst in the basement of Stephen King collector Gerald Winters, allowing for gushing water that destroyed a number of original King manuscripts. It wasn't the first time freezing temperatures allowed for property destruction, and it certainly won't be the last.

When supply lines freeze, the ice has no room to expand, causing water pressure to build up between the blockage and the closed faucet. When it bursts, the damage can be significant. New Orleans-based CBS affiliate WWLTV recently shared steps from the American Red Cross that homeowners can take to minimize their risk of a winter disaster.

If you have pipes that are located near exterior walls prone to cooler temperatures or in uninsulated areas of your basement, try letting a small trickle of cold water run through household faucets. The continuous movement of the water will prevent the line from succumbing to pressure. You can also buy insulation or heat-capturing foil tape from a local hardware store. Keeping pipes insulated will help them retain heat in winter and prevent them from "sweating" in summer.

If the worst happens and you come home to a frozen line—you'll know because the faucet won't be working—then you'll have to thaw out the pipe before it has a chance to burst and cause water damage. With the faucet running, find the source of the blockage by looking at the supply line for frost or bulging; apply heat to the affected pipes with a space heater, hair dryer, or some hot towels.

If fate has dealt you a truly bad hand and you discover that a pipe has burst, you'll need to act quickly: Broken pipes can dump more than 250 gallons of water a day. Know the location of your main incoming water line and turn it off, then head for the phone to notify a plumber.

There's not exactly a set temperature where you should be more concerned about a frozen pipe. Even at higher temperatures, a pipe's location and incoming cold snaps can cause problems. Seal cracks in walls near pipes if you can, and consult with a professional about rerouting pipes if they're in a problem area. With a little foresight, you can prevent a king-sized (or King-sized) disaster.

[h/t WWLTV.com]

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