Trying to Detoxify the Air in Your Home? Try This Super Special Houseplant.
Although they are invisible, there are a number of volatile chemicals and compounds that can affect us in our daily lives. Many times, we may have absolutely no control over them. For instance, even if our homes are relatively clear of airborne chemicals, we may work in an office that uses paint or furniture that emits harmful chemicals. You may have heard some of these names in the past: chloroform, formaldehyde, benzene, tetrachloride, butadiene, carbon and naphthalene.
Although they may sound exotic, the fact is that they are frightfully common. And when you’re exposed to one or many of these chemical compounds on a consistent basis, these silent killers can wreak havoc on your body. It’s not surprising that chemists and other researchers have been trying to explore ways in which we can get these harmful substances out of our environments.
Where Do These Substances Come From?
Although they are dangerous, harmful compounds can result from everyday things that you do in your home. But chances are that you’re not thinking about how boiling some water could cause bad chemicals to be released around you.
You’re also probably not thinking about these things when you step into the shower, and you probably don’t ponder all of the ways in which your car, which sits in your garage, may be releasing harmful benzene into the air you breathe. But just because we can’t see all of the harm that’s unfolding doesn’t make it any less real. There are a whole host of innocuous activities that can lead to dangerous airborne compounds swirling around you, your family and your pets.
A Fatalistic Approach Hasn’t Worked
In the past, many of us have shrugged our shoulders when it comes to volatile compounds in our homes. After all, we reason, what can we possibly do about it? We say things like, “Everyone has to die of something!” But these VOCs aren’t just killing us; they’re causing chronic conditions, perhaps making our breathing more difficult and even triggering cancers. Those who have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases may find that these harmful compounds end up being the X factor that causes a predisposition to become an actual disease.
But now, with all of the scientific advances being made in recent years, we no longer have to throw our hands up in the air and resign ourselves to fate. Now we will have options to protect ourselves — and everyone else who walks into our homes.
Could the Devil’s Vine Become a Heavenly Solution?
Recently, some of the best scientists in the world have been trying to work this problem. How can we get these compounds out of the air that we breathe on a daily basis? Unlike many other issues, this is one that affects everyone. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and other identifying factors, we all become products of our environments. And although studies have shown linkages between harmful compounds and health problems in human beings and pets, we have barely scratched the surface of all the ways in which these compounds can affect our bodies.
A team from the University of Washington has recently developed a special interest in the Devil’s vine plant, which is known for its ability to survive in practically any condition. Similar to the way in which cockroaches can thrive in any environment, these plants somehow manage to live — even when the going gets impossible.
How Rabbits Will Play a Role
Incredibly, scientists believe that the magic may occur when a rabbit gene is introduced to the Devil’s vine. Splicing the two together, they plan to create a special houseplant that will eradicate harmful compounds from the air.
Although it may sound fantastical at first, this hasn’t been the first time that plants have been used in this way. For instance, spider plants are naturally able to clear formaldehyde from the air; this is without any natural genetic alterations at all. The one challenge is that someone would need plenty of these plants in their home to make a real difference. And if you don’t want your house to be completely taken over by spider plants, then you may not experience any noteworthy positive effects.
However, splicing genes may be able to help us create “super plants” that take up much less space — and clear a multitude of toxins out of our air.
Getting a Mammalian Enzyme to Do the Dirty Work
Cytochrome p450 2e1 is not just any enzyme. As soon as researchers started looking at it, they discovered that it boasts an array of special abilities. Unlike plants that may clear out a compound or two, this exciting enzyme boasts the power to scrub carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, benzene, and trichloroethylene from the air. Scientists were able to use a bacterium to basically inject the Devil’s vine’s chromosomes with a version of this enzyme that comes from the rabbit.
From that point on, the plant started creating its own cytochrome p450 2e1, which must have been an extraordinarily exciting day in the lab. It’s almost as if one could inject a human being with a cancer-killing gene that makes the body clear out all of the toxins in one shot. Obviously, some cancer patients have been receiving cancer treatments that are gene-based, but these programs are still in their infancy. The plant experiments allow us to see what is potentially possible with our own bodies, and trials are not dangerous. At this point, it seems as though all of the possible outcomes are only positive.
A Brave New Frontier
The recent studies have shown a great deal of promise, making this a really exciting time to be in the field. Although many people have voiced opposition to genetically modified plants, the simple fact of the matter is that no scientific study really supports all of the public’s wariness about GMOs. And in order for these special plants to become more popular, people may need to shed their preconceptions and look to address the actual enemy — not GMOs, but bad chemicals floating around their heads on a daily basis.
Bet You’ve Never Thought of a Tobacco Plant This Way Before
One of the many plants that scientists have been researching for scrubbing purposes is the tobacco plant. Tobacco plants are similar to spider plants in that they do inherently possess some ability to clear out formaldehyde. However, when a bacterial gene is spliced in with their composition, they become several times more powerful at getting the job done.
A Liver for the Air?
Did you know that the protein 2E1 is what helps our bodies to process alcohol? Residing in your liver, it works natural miracles to successfully break down the alcohol. But what if, scientists have posited, we could cause a reaction like this to happen in the air around us? Without our even seeing it, bad compounds could be combatted with the help of what is essentially an “outside liver”.
Experiments That Put These Revolutionary Ideas to the Test
Although the concepts have been researched for years, eventually all of the ideas had to be put to test in the lab. Scientists took an edited version of the Devil’s vine, as well as the plant in its natural form. Placing them in separate glass cases, they introduced benzene and chloroform to different plants. With the plants that weren’t edited, there was no change — remember, Devil’s vine doesn’t really boast natural scrubbing abilities.
However, in the plants that were modified, the results were astounding. After a period of only three days, these plants had removed a whopping 82 percent of the chloroform concentration. By the sixth day of the experiment, it was almost impossible to find any chloroform. Although the edited plant took longer to remove the benzene, it still managed to scrub out 75 percent in a little longer just a week.
A System That Just Might Work
Scientists are now working out all of the details of how this would function in the real world. Obviously, conditions at home are much different from those in the lab. However, researchers think that there’s no reason why, with the help of a fan and an enclosed area, these plants won’t be able to similarly scrub the air in homes. All plant owners will need to do is ensure that air from the home is brushing past the leaves on a consistent basis.
Formaldehyde Is the Next Step
Although researchers have been excelling at this project, they are still looking for ways to break down other harmful components. Formaldehyde in particular has been a challenge, but scientists believe that they’ll be able to break it down as well, with the help of some proteins.
Indeed, researchers sound downright bullish about their ability to create these plants. It seems extremely possible that home filtering systems will become a thing of the past as these products are introduced into the market. After all, a houseplant is beautiful; as opposed to a big hunk of metal, these plants will actually look very attractive in the home.
Maintenance will be easy, and people entering your home may not even know that your pretty houseplant is also protecting them from toxins in the air. In a day and age where everyone is seeking out items that are both eco-friendly and convenient, it’s difficult to picture a solution that is more sustainable and streamlined than this one. It’s a very modern fix for a modern problem. Before you know it, you may be able to find these plants in your local Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Just remember to water yours!