Pure Genius… How NASA Proved That Plants Banish Toxins From Homes

Scientists are harnessing Nasa space research to help clean the air in homes – by using everyday house plants. Trials were carried out into the pollution-absorbing power of indoor greenery, with the aim of bringing the plants into the International Space Station so that astronauts could breathe cleaner air.

Experts discovered that plants such as the common peace lily have secret capabilities which can eliminate a range of chemicals unknowingly produced in homes by common detergents, furniture polish, air fresheners and scented candles.

Now instead of just buying plants for their looks, people can choose them for their health-enhancing properties. Researchers have created a system categorising them by their ability to help to remove toxins in the home. The ‘pollutant absorption system’ was developed with Dr Chris Thorogood, deputy director and head of science at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum.

It is intended to be used by plant retailers, nurseries and horticulturalists so it can be integrated into labelling, communications and at point-of-sale checkouts. Dr Thorogood said: ‘Plants are natural smart filters for indoor pollutants. They do what is called phytoremediation, which means they can remove pollution and volatile organic compounds from the air. Nature has been tried and tested by evolution for hundreds of millions of years, so what better solution can there be for a natural air purifier?’

The five main chemicals commonly found in the home via household appliances and products are xylene, trichloroethylene, benzene, formaldehyde and ammonia. They can be detected in many homes in furniture wax, detergents, unvented fast stoves, lacquers, carpet cleaning fluids, magic markers and many more household products.

A snake plant and a Janet Craig plant can remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene. The peace lily can remove those four, plus ammonia. Using this research, McCann Health London and retailer Plant Drop have created Smart Plants, a system that categorises everyday houseplants that help remove specific toxins from the home.

Guy Swimer, executive creative director of McCann Health London, said: ‘Revisiting Nasa’s research and teaming up with leading botanists across the world to identify the pollution-tackling properties of each plant was a detailed process. Our hope is that more nurseries and retailers adopt the pollutant absorption system, so that we can all become better informed about the health benefits plants can bring.’

Dom Butler, founder of Plant Drop, added: ‘Our new e-commerce tool transforms the way we shop for plants. Instead of buying them based on their looks, people can now buy them based on their lifestyle, whether they’ve moved into a new home, have pets or burn scented candles.’


Daily Mail

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