They brighten up our homes and cheer up our offices. But house plants also clean up the air we breathe, according to a study.

Research has shown that popular pot plants absorb dangerous chemicals, leaving the air safer for us to breathe.

One of the best ‘natural air fresheners’ is Guzmania lingulata – or the scarlet star – a tropical type of bromeliad, which can bloom for months indoors.

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Others include the corn plant, Dracaena fragrans. Its long, variegated leaves are particularly good at mopping up acetone, the pungent chemical in nail varnish remover.

The study comes amid mounting concerns about the damage done by indoor air pollution, including toxins called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are released by everything from paint and printers to cleaning chemicals and dry-cleaned clothes.

The Royal College of Physicians has estimated that indoor air pollution contributes to 99,000 deaths in Europe every year.

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And many people blame stagnant, polluted indoor air for headaches, skin allergies and fatigue. The team from the State University of New York placed five different pot plants in a sealed chamber pumped full of eight VOCs and monitored how levels of the chemicals changed over 12 hours.

Found to be the best all-rounder, the scarlet star was extremely good at removing six of the VOCs – absorbing more than 80 per cent of each.

While all five plants – which also included a jade plant, a spider plant and a Caribbean tree cactus – could remove acetone, the Dracaena plant took up the most, at 94 per cent, the American Chemical Society conference heard.