For years, people have used houseplants to decorate, and leafy indoor greenery is now a standard feature in nearly every home, school, and business around the world.
The health benefits of plants, some say, include removing toxins like benzene — a volatile organic compound (VOC) in gasoline known to cause cancer — from indoor air.
And with indoor air quality — especially in the post-COVID-19 era — many people thinking about, houseplants are springing up everywhere.
Now, a new study claims that Ambius, a manufacturer of sleek “green walls” featuring houseplants, has designed a green wall so effective at removing indoor air pollutants that 97 percent of toxins, including benzene, are eliminated in just eight hours. has been removed .
“This is the first time that plants have been tested for their ability to remove petrol-related compounds, and the results are astonishing,” said Professor Fraser Torpy from the University of Technology Sydney in a press release.
But other scientists are throwing cold water at plants’ purported ability to clean indoor air.
In 2019, researchers investigated how quickly and effectively plants removed VOCs from indoor air.
Their study showed that it takes about 10 to 1,000 plants per square meter to improve air quality as much as a typical building ventilation system.
In a 1,500-square-foot home, that equates to a dense jungle of at least 680 houseplants.
“Plants, while they remove VOCs, remove them at such a slow rate that they can’t compete with the air exchange mechanisms already happening in buildings,” Michael Waring, a study co-author and an environmental engineer at Drexel University, told me. Philadelphia. National Geographic.
Another company, Paris-based start-up Neoplants, is now selling a “super plant” that is said to have been genetically engineered to purify the air, as well as 30 common houseplants.
Although it resembles a common pothos houseplant — a well-known ivy with heart-shaped leaves — the Neo P1 sells for $179.
The plant also needs “power drops,” which are bacteria supplements that must be purchased every month and added to the plant’s soil to further break down the VOCs.
“As soon as you ship a product to someone, the viability of these bacteria decreases,” Jenn Brophy, a Stanford researcher whose lab develops genetically engineered plants, told MIT Technology Review.
“It would be so wonderful if we had all these beautiful plants that purify our air for us,” Elliott Gall, a professor at Portland State University who studies indoor air quality, told National Geographic. “But there are more effective ways to clean indoor air.”