Plants Clean Air Pollution Better Than Expected
"Plants clean our air to a greater extent than we had realized. They actively consume certain types of air pollution."
- Thomas Karl of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research
Plants, especially some trees under stress, are even better than expected at scrubbing certain chemical pollutants out of the air, researchers reported on Thursday.
Scientists have long known that plants take in carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas that can build up in the atmosphere and trap heat beneath it. But they did not know that some plants excel at sucking up a class of chemicals known as oxygenated volatile organic compounds, or oVOCs.
These compounds, which can have long-term health and environmental impacts, form in the atmosphere from hydrocarbons and other chemicals from natural and human-made sources, including plants, vehicles and construction materials.
Because oVOCs can combine with nitrogen oxides to form ozone, they can contribute to lung inflammation and swelling and asthma attacks, according to the American Lung Association.