Genetically Modified Plants to Purify Indoor Air

Researchers have genetically modified a common indoor plant Pothos Ivy, to remove pollutants inside the house, including chloroform and benzene that have been linked to cancer, according to a new study. The modified plants express a protein, called P450 2E1 or 2E1, that transforms these compounds into molecules that the plants can then use to support their own growth.

For the study, the team tested how well their modified plants could remove the pollutants from air compared to normal Pothos Ivy. They put both types of plants in glass tubes and then added either benzene or chloroform gas into each tube. Over 11 days, they tracked how the concentration of each pollutant changed in each tube.

Findings, published in ‘Environmental Science and Technology’, showed that for the unmodified plants, the concentration of either gas did not change over time. However, for the modified plants, the concentration of chloroform dropped by 82% after three days, and it was almost undetectable by Day 6. In addition, the concentration of benzene also decreased in the modified plant vials by about 75%.