COLUMBIA, Mo. - Overwintering plants indoors may improve air quality in your home during the long, chilly months, said a University of Missouri horticulturist.

"Research has found that plants can be very useful in absorbing harmful pollutants," said Mary Kroening.

During photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen. In doing so, they can remove harmful chemicals, including benzene, formaldehyde, which is found in almost all indoor environments, and trichloroethylene.

The roots and plant tissue degrade the pollutants. Studies indicate that potting soil and microorganisms in the soil play a role in removing pollutants from the air, Kroening said.

NASA found that living plants were efficient at absorbing contaminants in space stations, she said.

Modern homes and office buildings are better insulated and sealed than older buildings, so they trap more air, allowing contaminants to accumulate, she said.

Several plants are particularly good at absorbing contaminants. These include English ivy, spider plants, devil's ivy, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, bamboo and a variety of philodendrons and dracaena.