Houseplants can protect you from cancer-causing air pollutants, study reveals

ULTIMO, Australia — Plants not only brighten up a dreary room, they may also save you from cancer! While many people may know plants produce oxygen, researchers say they can also soak up harmful chemicals in the air. University of Technology Sydney (UTS) researchers, in collaboration with plantscaping solutions company Ambius, have found that plants can remove almost all cancer-causing fumes from a room.

“We know that indoor air quality is often significantly more polluted than outdoor air, which in turn impacts mental and physical health. But the great news is this study has shown that something as simple as having plants indoors can make a huge difference,” says Ambius General Manager Johan Hodgson.

According to the World Health Organization, poor indoor air quality is responsible for 6.7 million premature deaths around the world. Most people spend 90 percent of their time inside of a building, whether that’s at home, school, or work. Because of this, it’s really important to have effective strategies in place to help mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution.

Plants can clean up a room in 8 hours

The team found that the Ambius small green wall, which has a mix of indoor plants, was highly effective at removing carcinogenic air pollutants — removing 97 percent of the most toxic compounds from the surrounding air within eight hours. Previous studies have also shown this, but this one is the first experiments to show that plants can remove petrol (gasoline) fumes, which are one of the largest sources of toxic compounds in buildings around the world.

“This is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove petrol-related compounds, and the results are astounding,” says Associate Professor Fraser Torpy, the study leader and a UTS bioremediation researcher, in a university release.

plant wall absorbing harmful air particles
Scientists examine plant wall absorbing harmful air particles (Credit: University of Technology Sydney)

“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, for example, known carcinogen benzene is digested at a faster rate than less harmful substances, like alcohols,” Torpy continues.

“We also found that the more concentrated the toxins in the air, the faster and more effective the plants became at removing the toxins, showing that plants adapt to the conditions they’re growing in.”

Their findings were able to validate the positive feedback they received after installing plants in hundreds of office buildings across the country.

“At Ambius, we see over and over again the effects plants have in improving health, wellbeing, productivity and office attendance for the thousands of businesses we work with. This new research proves that plants should not just be seen as ‘nice to have’, but rather a crucial part of every workplace wellness plan,” Hodgson concludes.

“The bottom line is that the best, most cost effective and most sustainable way to combat harmful indoor air contaminants in your workplace and home is to introduce plants.”

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