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Toxic air contaminants are removed by indoor plants

Toxic air contaminants are removed by indoor plants.
Toxic air contaminants are removed by indoor plants.

A recent study carried out by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Ambius, a plant scaping solutions company, has unveiled the impressive capacity of indoor plants in efficiently eliminating harmful air pollutants, notably petrol-related compounds. The study, still pending peer review, highlights the potential of using green walls, housing a mix of indoor plants, to enhance indoor air quality and create a healthier environment.

The global concern regarding air pollution persists, with the World Health Organization estimating around 6.7 million premature deaths annually due to its adverse effects. Given that people typically spend about 90% of their time indoors, addressing indoor air pollution becomes paramount, necessitating innovative strategies to mitigate its impact.

While prior research has shown the effectiveness of indoor plants in removing various indoor air contaminants, this latest study stands out for its focus on the removal of petrol vapours, a significant source of toxic compounds found in buildings worldwide. This research addresses specific challenges faced by offices and residential areas close to car parks, where harmful petrol-related compounds easily infiltrate the indoor environment.

Fraser Torpy, co-author of the study and a UTS researcher, expressed excitement about the groundbreaking findings, stating, "This is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove petrol-related compounds, and the results are astounding." The study, conducted in collaboration with Ambius, evaluated a small green wall system comprising a variety of indoor plants in eliminating cancer-causing pollutants.

The investigation involved placing the Ambius plant wall system in chambers with a small volume of petrol vapor, while separate plant-free chambers served as a control group. Despite potential leaks in the chambers, the presence of plants led to the removal of over 40% of total volatile organic compounds during the eight-hour test period. Notably, the green wall effectively eliminated harmful chemicals such as alkanes, benzene derivatives, and cyclopentanes.

The specific plant species within the green wall, including Devil's ivy, Arrowhead plants, and Spider plants, displayed remarkable performance. Over a typical workday, these plants reduced the levels of some noxious cancer-causing compounds to below 20% of their initial concentrations, significantly enhancing indoor air quality. The researchers estimated that Ambius' green wall could eliminate a staggering 97% of the most toxic compounds.

These findings hold substantial implications for a global society committed to sustainability and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Aligning with SDG 3, the use of indoor plants to enhance indoor air quality contributes to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages. Furthermore, this study emphasizes the role of civil society in promoting sustainable practices, aligning with SDG 11, which aims to create sustainable cities and communities.

Johan Hodgson, Ambius' general manager, highlighted the broader implications of the study's results, stating, "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." Incorporating indoor plants in workplaces, schools, and homes can significantly improve well-being and promote a more sustainable and environmentally conscious society.

This research underscores the efficacy of nature-based solutions in addressing environmental issues, particularly indoor air pollution. With growing awareness of air pollution's detrimental effects, the adoption of green walls and indoor plants is likely to expand. These solutions showcase the potential of plants in mitigating pollution and contributing to a healthier planet amidst the ongoing challenges of climate change and the pursuit of sustainable development.

The study emphasizes the transformative potential of indoor plants in eliminating toxic air pollutants, particularly petrol-related compounds. Their integration into indoor spaces represents a promising avenue for achieving a more sustainable and resilient global society, enhancing indoor air quality, and prioritizing the well-being of individuals. This natural approach signifies a significant step towards realizing a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.

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