Houseplant with hint of rabbit purifies indoor air

Houseplant with hint of rabbit purifies indoor air

Humble houseplants have always been known to bring benefits that go way beyond brightening a room, and now researchers have given their powers an extra boost, turning a popular species of climber into an air purifier. Both benzene and chloroform exposure have been linked to cancer. But for the modified plants, the concentration of harmful compounds dropped by 82 percent after three days and by 8 days, it was barely detectable.

The gene in question is found in many mammals - including humans - and is responsible for producing a liver enzyme that breaks down a range of chemical pollutants in the body.

"It is an example of the "green liver" concept", said professor Stuart Strand, the senior author.

In addition, the concentration of benzene also decreased in the modified plant vials by about 75 per cent. "But we wanted to do this in pothos because it's a robust houseplant that grows well under all sort of conditions".

Writing in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from the University of Washington say they inserted two other genes at the same time to allow them to check that the genetic modification had worked.

Artificial filters can not remove, for example, benzene and chloroform, which prior studies have linked to cancer.

The team published its findings December 19 in Environmental Science & Technology.

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The researchers restrict that in the experiments used concentrations of pollutants were, for technical reasons, approximately a Million Times higher than in normal room air.

People often use HEPA air filters to keep harmful indoor pollutants at bay.

Long Zhang puts a pothos ivy plant into a glass tube to test its ability to break down chloroform and benzene. They might even fall faster over the same time frame. As a common houseplant, it can readily be placed anywhere in the home. "But without air flow, it takes a very long time, until a molecule from the other corner of the house comes to the Plant".

The team believes the plants will work inside homes, but that the home would need good airflow or a fan directed at the plant for maximum effectiveness.

The scientists are now trying to further modify the houseplant to break down formaldehyde.

The team is now working to increase capabilities of transgenic plants by adding a protein that can break down another hazardous molecule found in air in houses, including the most toxic formaldehyde, which is present in some wood products, such as laminate flooring and cabinets and tobacco smoke. "Therefore, it is really hard to get rid of them", says Stuart beach, was involved in the study. "It is so much easier and more sustainable, a houseplant with the corresponding proteins".

The National Science Foundation, Amazon Catalyst at UW, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences funded the research.

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