If you’re a fan of fresh air (and who isn’t?) a recent discovery may be cause for celebration. Research by State University of New York at Oswego’s Vadoud Niri shows certain common houseplants may provide a lower-cost option for removing volatile organic compounds from the air in homes. He found that plants can be useful for removing compounds such as acetone, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air we breathe. These types of volatile organic compounds may enter a person’s home in a variety of innocuous ways, including cleaning supplies, nail polish remover, and dry cleaning. While vents and filters currently provide a means of screening out volatile organic compounds, plants could provide an alternative that is cheaper and easier to add to existing homes.
Watch this short animation on houseplants’ ability to remove volatile organic compounds from the air:
Speaking at the 252nd ACS National Meeting and Exposition in Philadelphia, Niri discussed his findings and answered questions about his work. He noted that in controlled testing in special sealed chambers he found different plants appear to have different absorption rates for different chemicals. This suggests that having a variety of plants would better suited to removing a range of indoor pollutants than any one plant on its own. Of the five types of plants included in this study, however, bromeliad plants appeared to offer the best all-around removal of volatile organic compounds.
Watch Niri discuss his research into using plants to remove volatile organic compounds:
The next phase of Niri’s research may involve testing plants’ ability to remove volatile organic compounds from a real room, not just a sealed chamber. Niri says he plans to put plants in a nail salon and study their performance over the course of serval months. The goal would be to find an easy way to reduce workers’ exposure to acetone.
Check out more great videos from the American Chemical Society.