Plants can help set a mood at the spa and encourage refreshed feelings with their inviting aesthetics. But plants can also help keep your spa space, according to a new study at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in collaboration with Ambius.
The study has revealed that plants can efficiently remove toxic gasoline fumes, including cancer-causing compounds such as benzene, from indoor air.
Researchers found that Ambius' small green wall containing a mix of indoor plants was highly effective at removing harmful, cancer-causing pollutants, with 97% of the most toxic compounds removed from the surrounding air in eight hours.
Previous studies on indoor plants have shown they can remove a broad range of indoor air contaminants, however, this is the first study into the ability of plants to clean up gasoline vapors, which are one of the largest sources of toxic compounds in buildings worldwide.
Offices and residential apartment buildings often connect directly to parking garages, either by doors or elevator shafts, making it difficult to avoid harmful gasoline-related compounds seeping into work and residential areas. Many buildings are also exposed to gasoline fumes from nearby roads and highways.
Breathing gasoline fumes can lead to lung irritation, headaches and nausea, and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, asthma and other chronic diseases from longer-term exposure, contributing to decreased life expectancy.
UTS bioremediation researcher and associate professor Fraser Torpy said the study results, based on measurements from a sealed chamber, had far exceeded their expectations when it came to removing gasoline pollutants from the air. Torpy was the lead researcher on the study.
"This is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove gasoline-related compounds, and the results are astounding," Torpy said. "Not only can plants remove the majority of pollutants from the air in a matter of hours, they remove the most harmful gasoline-related pollutants from the air most efficiently, for example, known carcinogen benzene is digested at a faster rate than less harmful substances, like alcohols. 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."
Ambius general manager Johan Hodgson said the research presented new evidence of the critical role played by indoor plants and green walls in cleaning the air we breathe quickly and sustainably.
"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," Hodgson said.