If you need more justification for your next houseplant purchase, newly released research will make the decision easier. Researchers at the University of Washington have successfully modified a common houseplant that will reduce hazardous compounds often found in our homes.
Unless your home was built with sustainable products, you have been exposed to volatile compounds such as chloroform and benzene. Chlorinated water releases small chloroform molecules into the air through evaporation. A gas furnace or stove, a car being stored in a garage, or a lawnmower are sources of Benzene. Both compounds have direct links to cancer.
How does a genetically modified plant protect us from Chloroform and Benzene?
Genetically modifying a plant may be beneficial yet it is potentially ethically complicated. Researchers at the University of Washington were able to genetically modify and bred pothos ivy to remove both chloroform and benzene from the air. Pothos ivy that has been modified is unable to be reproduced through pollination giving it little to no chance of flowering when grown in indoors.
What do researchers already know about genetically modifying Pothos ivy?
Modified pothos ivy expresses a protein called 2E1 that removes chloroform and benzene from the air and is only present in the liver of mammals. Researchers at the University of Washington set out to determine if 2E1 can function in the same manner in plants. The result of the study would be the creation of an external, or green, liver. The plants remove harmful compounds by transforming them into carbon dioxide and chloride ions that plants then use to produce their food. The same ions are also important for the creations of Phenol which is essential for plant cell wall formation.
The data proves to be encouraging
When tested, the genetically modified pothos was able to decrease the amount of chloroform in the air by 82% after three days and was undetectable by the 6th day. Benzene concentrations were decreased by approximately 75 percent by day eight.
The full study is available to read in Environmental Science & Technology.