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Indoor plants remove toxic air pollutants

Global Goals & Global Society
Indoor plants remove toxic air pollutants

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and plant scaping solutions company Ambius has revealed the remarkable ability of indoor plants to effectively remove toxic air pollutants, including petrol-related compounds. The findings, which are yet to be peer-reviewed, highlight the potential of incorporating green walls containing a mix of indoor plants to improve indoor air quality and promote a healthier environment.

Air pollution continues to be a significant global concern, with the World Health Organization estimating that approximately 6.7 million people die prematurely each year due to its adverse effects. Given that people spend about 90% of their time indoors, it becomes crucial to address indoor air pollution and explore innovative strategies to mitigate its impact.

While previous studies have demonstrated that indoor plants can effectively eliminate various indoor air contaminants, this latest study stands out for testing their efficacy in removing petrol vapours, a major source of toxic compounds in buildings worldwide. The research also addresses the specific challenges faced by offices and residential areas located in close proximity to car parks, where harmful petrol-related compounds can easily permeate the indoor environment.

Fraser Torpy, co-author of the study and a researcher at UTS, expressed enthusiasm about the groundbreaking nature of their findings. "This is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove petrol-related compounds, and the results are astounding," Torpy remarked. The researchers collaborated with Ambius to evaluate the effectiveness of a small green wall system, comprising a variety of indoor plants, in removing cancer-causing pollutants.

The study involved placing the Ambius plant wall system inside chambers containing a small volume of petrol vapor, while separate chambers without plants served as a control group. Although it was not possible to completely rule out potential leaks in the chambers, the researchers found that the presence of plants resulted in the removal of over 40% of total volatile organic compounds during the eight-hour test period. Notably, the green wall was particularly efficient in eliminating harmful chemicals such as alkanes, benzene derivatives, and cyclopentanes.

The plant species included in the green wall, such as Devil's ivy, Arrowhead plants, and Spider plants, demonstrated remarkable performance. Over a typical workday, these plants were found to reduce the levels of some noxious cancer-causing compounds to below 20% of their initial concentrations, effectively improving indoor air quality. The researchers estimated that the green wall by Ambius could remove a staggering 97% of the most toxic.

These findings hold significant implications for the vision of a global society committed to sustainability and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The study aligns with SDG 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. By improving indoor air quality and reducing exposure to harmful pollutants, the use of indoor plants can contribute to preventing respiratory illnesses and other health conditions associated with poor air quality.

Moreover, the study underscores the role of civil society in promoting sustainable practices and advocating for healthier environments. Individuals, organizations, and communities can proactively adopt green initiatives, such as incorporating indoor plants, to enhance indoor air quality and reduce their ecological footprint. By taking such actions, civil society can actively contribute to SDG 11, which focuses on creating sustainable cities and communities.

Johan Hodgson, the general manager of Ambius, highlighted the broader implications of the study's findings. "Not only can plants remove the majority of pollutants from the air in a matter of hours, they remove the most harmful petrol-related pollutants from the air most efficiently," Hodgson emphasized. By incorporating indoor plants, workplaces, schools, and homes can significantly improve the well-being of individuals and promote a more sustainable and environmentally conscious society.

The research contributes to the ongoing efforts to address indoor air pollution and create healthier indoor environments. The study's findings emphasize the simplicity and effectiveness of using plants as a natural air purification solution. As awareness grows regarding the detrimental effects of air pollution on human health and the environment, the adoption of green walls and indoor plants may become more widespread.

This study serves as a powerful reminder of the potential of nature-based solutions in addressing pressing environmental issues. As the world continues to grapple with climate change and strive for sustainable development, harnessing the natural capabilities of plants can play a crucial role in mitigating pollution and promoting a healthier planet.

This highlights the transformative power of indoor plants in removing toxic air pollutants, particularly petrol-related compounds. With the potential to significantly improve indoor air quality and create healthier environments, incorporating green walls and indoor plants represents a promising avenue for a sustainable and resilient global society. By adopting such nature-based solutions and prioritizing the well-being of individuals, we can work towards achieving the vision of a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.


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