Over the years there has been quite a bit of debate about whether houseplants really can filter indoor air by removing toxins and particles. An early and often repeated study showed very promising results -- in space. NASA tests in a spacecraft packed with plants showed markedly better air. But proving that plants are efficient filters in real world, terrestrial situations hasn't been so easy.
Still, it seems most likely that some houseplants can't hurt. Not only might they take out some of the nasty stuff that's in your space (remember, the EPA estimates that indoor air quality is often up to 10 times worse than what's outside), but some think they may offer some protection against electromagnetic radiation. And plants certainly can help your home retain comfortable moisture levels, especially in winter; they can provide shading in windows; and they do release oxygen. Plants are also beautiful to look at, and can help lessen the feeling of detachment from nature that affects so many of us in modern society.
So which houseplants should you pick? I don't recommend simply driving up to a big box store in the middle of the night and snatching whatever you can carry from the garden zone, as a guy I knew in college boasted of doing. (Sadly, he claimed to be too busy to water the poor things -- despite the fact that he rarely attended class or work -- and they browned into dust, until he repeated the heist again with a fresh set of greenery.) Most people have thousands of choices of species, since there is less concern over whether the organisms are native species or not, since they are living inside and less likely to spread.
The blog The New Ecologist has a nice list of the Top 10 Natural, Eco-Friendly and Anti-Pollutant Houseplants. There are attractive photos and brief descriptions of such jems (and purported pollution-suckers) as peace lily, African violets, Christmas cactus, garlic vine and various ivies.
Take a gander, and whatever you choose, for heaven's sake don't forget to water it! Houseplants are usually very simple to tend, needing only occasional fertilizer. Of course, they need sunlight too, but the good news is there are quite a few that are quite shade tolerant. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. And they're alive!
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