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Can This Plant Clean Indoor Pollution?

The Neo P1 houseplant is genetically engineered to make indoor air safer to breathe.
A houseplant sits on a stand in a home as a man reads a magazine in the background.
© Antoine Guilloteau/NEOPLANT

A company in France has developed a houseplant that it claims can remove 30 times more pollution from indoor air than a typical houseplant. Called the Neo P1, the plant is genetically engineered to turn toxins into plant fuel.

Indoor air can be full of toxins from many sources, including paint, household cleaners, and insulation. Some of these toxins, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can’t be removed by air purifiers—and it’s not always possible to open a window to allow natural airflow to clean the environment. Experts say houseplants can remove VOCs by absorbing them into their roots and leaves. But studies show that having a few houseplants around won’t significantly improve air quality.

In developing the Neo P1, French company Neoplants took a type of plant called a golden pothos and made two key changes. First, they engineered it to ensure it absorbs more VOCs than regular houseplants. Second, they designed the plant to convert the VOCs it absorbs into substances like sugar and carbon dioxide, both of which help the plant to grow.

Neoplant sent their creation to air quality experts at Ecole Mines-Télécom at Lille University, who did tests comparing the Neo P1 with regular golden pothos plants. They found that the genetically engineered plant was about 30 times more effective at removing VOCs than the regular ones.

The plant costs about $179, which is about 10 times the cost of a regular golden pothos plant.

Did You Know?

A small dog is surrounded by houseplants as he stands on a cushioned bench looking at the floor.
© Chernetskaya/Dreamstime.com
Houseplants can clean indoor air and have a generally positive effect on our lives. But keep them away from your pets! Many common household plants are toxic to cats and dogs.

The Power of Plants

A woman who is sitting and reading goes from sad to happy as plants are added to the room.
© jongjawi, Good Studio/stock.adobe.com; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Houseplants may not have a massive impact on indoor air quality, but they can benefit us in other ways. Scientists have found evidence that keeping houseplants in our homes can help improve our mental health by reducing stress and may even make us more productive. And many studies have found that horticulture—caring for greenery—can help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Made in a Lab

A man places a flag reading Impossible in a meatball that is part of a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.
© Impossible Foods
How did scientists produce a plant that absorbs more toxins than a typical plant? They used a process called genetic engineering. Household products, medications, and even foods like these meatballs have been created with genetic engineering. Learn more about this process at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

efficacious

PART OF SPEECH:

adjective

Definition:
: having the power to produce a desired result or effect
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Criss Cross

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