Household HVAC (heating and air conditioning) systems use filters that are good for removing particles such as dust, mold and pollen, but have no benefit for removing volatile pollutants.
There are chemical filters that are produced, but they are extremely expensive and beyond the budget of most private households. Such filters typically are used for special clean-room research or in NASA’s space vehicles.
Indoor plants offer a viable alternative to man-made filters. The most common indoor pollutants that can cause respiratory harm are formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.
The most common sources of formaldehyde are carpeting, particle board, new clothing, foam insulation, plywood and some household cleaners.
Sources of benzene are tobacco smoke, gasoline, synthetic film, plastics, inks, dyes, some detergents and resins. Sources of trichloroethylene are dry cleaning, inks, paints, varnishes, lacquers and adhesives.
Certain plants are more effective at removing one chemical than another. The plants that work best for formaldehyde are spider plant, ivy, aloe vera, Boston fern, ficus and schefflera. The best plants for benzene are ivy, peace lily, peperonia, daisy and chrysanthemum. The best plants for trichloroethylene are arrowhead, dracaena, ivy, mother-in-law’s tongue and parlor palm.
As you may have noted, ivy plant leaves do have the broadest spectrum of chemical absorption.
Keep in mind that plants cannot only remove harmful chemicals, but they also add oxygen to the air.