Filling your home with plants may help reduce your risk of developing cancer, a study suggests.
Scientists in Sydney discovered that houseplants can remove toxic fumes, including carcinogenic pollutants, from indoor air.
In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) tested the ability of plants to clean up petrol fumes – one of the main sources of toxins found in buildings around the world.
The plants studied successfully removed 97 percent of the most noxious fumes from the air in just eight hours.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution in households caused 3.2 million premature deaths globally in 2020.
For the study, researchers created nine green walls (pictured) — vertical structures that have different types of plants or other greenery attached to them
The researchers then exposed the green walls, each of which had four plants attached and sealed in perspex chambers (pictured), to petroleum vapor
Inhaling gasoline fumes can cause lung irritation, headaches and nausea. Long-term exposure has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, asthma and other chronic diseases, contributing to a shorter life expectancy.
While not proven, this suggests that removing these chemicals from indoor air could in turn reduce cancer risk.
The UTS researchers, who teamed up with Australian plant-scaping company Ambius for the study, claim that most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, at home, at work or at school, so improving air quality is ‘ crucial’.
Many workplaces, homes and even some schools have garages, are on a busy road or have a gas station nearby, exposing people to gasoline-related chemicals on a daily basis, the researchers said.
For the studyAmbius created nine green walls – vertical structures to which different types of plants or other greenery are attached.
The researchers then exposed each green wall — which had four plants attached to it and sealed in Perspex chambers — to petroleum vapor.
To do this, they placed a 0.25 ml cocktail of gasoline-related chemicals in 80-degree heated baths, which were then placed in the nine perspex chambers. The scientists then waited for the fumes to turn to vapor.
Each room was tested every hour to measure how much toxic fumes had been lifted from the air by the houseplants.
It turned out that most of the fumes were removed within an eight-hour period, but the chemical levels continued to decline after this time.
Of the many gasoline-related chemicals tested, the study found that plants were best at removing pneumonia-causing compounds called alkanes — 97.9 percent of which disappeared.
Benzene, a known carcinogen, also had one of the highest removal rates (85.9 percent).
Associate professor Fraser Torpy, who led the study, said the study is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove gasoline-related compounds and the results are “amazing.”
“Not only can plants remove most pollutants from the air within hours, they also remove the most harmful gasoline-related pollutants from the air in the most efficient way,” he added.
Johan Hodgson, managing director of Ambius, said the research has provided new evidence for the crucial role houseplants and green walls play in cleaning the air we breathe quickly and sustainably.
He said: ‘We know that indoor air quality is often significantly more polluted than the outdoor air, which in turn affects mental and physical health.
“But the good news is that this research has shown that something as simple as planting indoors can make a huge difference.”
Mr Hodgson said the results confirmed the positive feedback his company had received after installing factories in hundreds of offices across Australia.
The type of plants used for the study were Devil’s Ivy (Scindapsus Aureus), Spider Plant (Chlorophytum), and Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium).