Carcinogenic substances: the Gene makes a houseplant pollutant filter

Modified Plant can Purify Air in the Houses

The American Lung Association has more on indoor air quality. Some air condition their living or office space using expensive filters, for instance. An air purifier, according to new research. "Now we have engineered houseplants to remove these pollutants for us", he said.

Artificial filters can not remove, for example, benzene and chloroform, which prior studies have linked to cancer. But 2E1 is located in our livers and is turned on when we drink alcohol.

"People haven't really been talking about these hazardous organic compounds in homes, and I think that's because we couldn't do anything about them", study senior author Stuart Strand said in a university news release. "And 2E1 can be beneficial for the plant, too".

One huge advantage of using plants is that they use carbon dioxide, chloride and phenols to make their food and cell wall structure, so the by-products produced from breaking down these atmospheric pollutants are quickly used by the plant to help it to grow - a win-win.

Small molecules like chloroform, which is present in small amounts in chlorinated water, or benzene, which is a component of gasoline, build up in our homes when we shower or boil water, or when we store cars or lawn mowers in attached garages. It would take more than 20 potted plants to remove formaldehyde from a typical room, for instance.

The researchers developed a synthetic version of the gene and through slow and complicated measures eventually introduce it to the pothos ivy so that every cell in the plant expressed the protein. Eight days later, the chloroform was barely detectable. But for the modified plants, the concentration of chloroform dropped by 82 percent after three days, and it was nearly undetectable by day six.

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The research was published December 19 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

But Professor Laurence Jones from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, whose work has recently shown that plants in the United Kingdom remove 1.4 million tonnes of air pollution, said more work was needed to see if the approach would prove useful outside the laboratory, noting the time it took for the devil's ivy to break down the chemicals and the fact there is much more air to clean in a room as well as regular emissions of pollutants. But these air filters involve small hazardous molecules such as chloroform or benzene that have been linked to cancer.

There is an important caveat to the study's findings.

Plants are very good at producing oxygen that we all need in order to breath, but what about clearing the air of harmful chemicals? Some potted plants containing the ivy would also remove harmful chemicals but at a far slower rate if there wasn't any airflow. They report their results in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.

"If you had a plant growing in the corner of a room, it will have some effect in that room", he said.

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