Still against GM? Adapted houseplants tackle air pollution

Your common garden (well, house) plant has a limited effect on indoor air pollution, but genetically modifying domestic flora might boost that. 

A number of companies are finally offering a way to improve indoor air quality while filling homes and offices with greenery to benefit mental health and wellbeing via adapted house plants. 

green plant on white ceramic pot

Two genetically modified versions of the pathos plant are now available to buy, both of which have been designed to combat indoor air pollution. The first of these, Canadian firm Origen Air, is already selling air purification systems including a GM pathos, while US-based Neoplants is expected to bring its own option to market next year. 

The two variants claim to improve the air pollution reduction potential of natural houseplants, although it’s worth noting that traditional greenery in the home can have a real impact on what you’re breathing in. Research published earlier this year by the University of Birmingham and Royal Horticultural Society made this clear. 

Conducting a series of experiments to monitor the relationship between houseplants and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), those conducting the study placed individual shrubs alone in a test chamber containing levels of the gas equivalent to those found in offices close to busy roads. Observing results over a one-hour period, it was found that all plants, no matter their species, were capable of removing around half the pollutant present in the chamber. Conditions such as levels of light, damp or dry soil, did not change this.

‘The plants we chose were all very different from each other, yet they all showed strikingly similar abilities to remove NO2 from the atmosphere. This is very different from the way indoor plants take up CO2 in our earlier work, which is strongly dependent on environmental factors such as nighttime or daytime, or soil water content,’ said lead researcher, Dr Christian Pfrang. 

Read the full study here. Earlier this year, Air Quality News asked if more outdoor plants in urban green spaces could make a real difference in terms of ambient air pollution. Find out in our long read.

Image: Annie Spratt




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