Plants Remove Toxins From Indoor Air That Are Linked to Cancers

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A world-first study conducted by the University of Technology Sydney Australia (UTS) has uncovered a never-before-proven set of capabilities for plants, their ability and their efficacy in removing toxic petrol fumes from indoor air associated with cancers.

The study was led by bioremediation researcher UTS Associate Professor Fraser Torpy, in partnership with leading plant-scaping solutions company, Ambius. The researchers found that the Ambius small green wall, containing a mix of indoor plants, was highly effective at removing harmful, cancer-causing pollutants, with 97 per cent of the most toxic compounds removed from the surrounding air in just eight hours (1).

Poor indoor air quality is responsible for 6.7 million premature deaths globally (2), according to the World Health Organisation. Most people spend 90% of their time indoors at home, school or the workplace (3), so adopting new strategies to improve air quality is critical.

The Research Findings from the Report

“The Ambius Small Live Green Wall is a small vertical plant wall system that has applications in indoor spaces that are not currently addressed by other functional plant-based systems, notably space efficiency, the use of mixed plant species, an innovative, low maintenance watering system and exceptionally high decorative value for use where larger vertical plant systems would be inappropriate.
Green walls have previously been shown to be capable of removing a broad range of critical indoor air contaminants, but no research has previously tested the phytoremediation of petroleum vapour, one of the most important sources of highly toxic and carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in buildings worldwide. Additionally, no previous work has tested the simultaneous removal of such a complex VOC mixture.
Thus, Ambius Small Live Green Wall units were exposed to petroleum vapour in sealed chambers and the removal of total petrol-sourced VOCs and individual VOCs was quantified with the use of photoionisation and gas-chromatography–mass spectrometry respectively.
The Ambius Small Live Green Wall was highly effective at removing total VOCs, with 42% removal in an 8-hour test period. Interestingly, the system was especially effective at the removal of aromatic benzene group compounds, alkanes and cyclopentane compounds, which represent some of the most dangerous components of petrol vapour, and in the case of benzene derivatives, the major cause of VOC-related health symptoms.
We conclude that the Ambius Small Live Green Wall is a highly effective system for the removal of the most dangerous indoor air contaminants, that may be of high value in improving occupant health within a broad array of indoor environments.” – Executive Summary.

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,” Mr Hodgson said.

Vehicle Emissions Play a Major Role in Indoor Air Pollution

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 petrol vapours, which are one of the largest sources of toxic compounds in buildings worldwide.

Offices and residential apartment buildings often connect directly to car parks, either by doors or lift wells, making it difficult to avoid harmful petrol-related compounds seeping into work and residential areas. Many buildings are also exposed to petrol fumes from nearby roads and highways.

Breathing petrol 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.

“This is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove petrol-related compounds”

Testing Air QualityDr Torpy said the study results, based on measurements from a sealed chamber, had far exceeded their expectations when it came to removing petrol pollutants from the air.

“This is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove petrol-related compounds, and the results are astounding. 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, the known carcinogen Benzene is digested faster than less harmful substances, like alcohol. 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,” Dr Torpy said.

Indoor Plants Create Healthy Breathing Air

Mr Hodgson said the findings confirmed feedback they’d received after installing plants in hundreds of office buildings across the nation.

“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 as a crucial part of every workplace wellness plan. 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,” Mr Hodgson said.

As Australia’s leading expert in indoor plant-scaping solutions, Ambius provides free onsite consultations to assess the best interior plant options for the workplace and retail spaces, as well as ongoing maintenance and free replacement of any non-performing plants.

“The health of indoor plants relies on correct lighting and watering levels to ensure plants are thriving and photosynthesising, and that’s where Ambius can help ensure plants are correctly chosen and well maintained.”air cleansing


Research
Research team: Stephen Matheson, Research Scientist; Robert Fleck, Research Engineer
Peter Irga, Research coordinator; Fraser Torpy, Director For further information visit: www.uts.edu.au

UTH Research team University of Technology Sydney
Matheson et al. (2022) The removal of petrochemical-derived VOCs by the Ambius Small Live Green Wall. PRO21-13147, a UTS report prepared for Rentokil Initial PLC
1 The removal of petrochemical-derived VOCs by the Ambius Small Live Green Wall, Ambius PLC and the University of Technology Sydney, Matheson.S1, Fleck.R1, Irga. P. J2, Torpy. F. R1. 
2 Household air pollution report 2022, World Health Organisation
3 Indoor Air, Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water

About Ambius
Ambius is Australia’s leading expert in innovative indoor plantscaping solutions, passionate about transforming the indoors into vibrant, unique spaces that improve the human experience and well-being, and help businesses to reach their sustainability goals.
Visit the Ambius website to learn. http://bitly.ws/Eq67


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