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Indoor plants can quickly remove dangerous toxins from air

New research led by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in collaboration with the leading Australian plantscaping solutions company Ambius has found that plants can efficiently remove toxic gasoline fumes – including cancer-causing compounds such as benzene – from indoor air.

Offices and residential buildings often connect directly to parking garages by doors or elevator shafts, making it challenging to avoid harmful gasoline-related compounds seeping into these indoor spaces. Moreover, many buildings are also exposed to gasoline fumes from nearby roads and highways. 

Breathing such fumes can cause lung irritation, headaches, and nausea and, over time, lead to an increased risk of cancer, asthma, and other chronic diseases, contributing to decreased life expectancy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), poor indoor air quality is responsible for 6.7 million premature deaths globally and, since most people spend over 90 percent of their time indoors (for instance at home, school, or the workplace), developing new strategies to improve air quality is crucial.

Now, the experts discovered that the Ambius small green wall, which contains a mix of indoor plants, is highly effective at removing harmful pollutants, with 97 percent of the most common toxic compounds being removed from the surrounding air in as fast as eight hours. 

While previous research has shown that indoor plants can remove a broad range of indoor air contaminants, this is the first study to examine the ability of plants to clean up gasoline vapors.

“This is the first time plants have been tested for their ability to remove gasoline-related compounds, and the results are astounding,” said study lead author Fraser Torpy, an expert in indoor environmental quality at UTS.

“Not only can plants remove the majority of pollutants from the air in a matter of hours, they remove the most harmful gasoline-related pollutants from the air most efficiently, for example, known carcinogen benzene is digested at a faster rate than less harmful substances, like alcohols. We also found that the more concentrated the toxins in the air, the faster and more effective the plants became at removing the toxins, showing that plants adapt to the conditions they’re growing in.”

According to Ambius General Manager Johan Hodgson, this study provides new evidence for the critical role indoor plants and green walls plays in cleaning the air quickly and sustainably. “We know that indoor air quality is often significantly more polluted than outdoor air, which in turn impacts mental and physical health. But the great news is this study has shown that something as simple as having plants indoors can make a huge difference,” he explained.

“At Ambius, we see over and over again the effects plants have in improving health, wellbeing, productivity, and office attendance for the thousands of businesses we work with. This new research proves that plants should not just be seen as ‘nice to have’, but rather a crucial part of every workplace wellness plan. The bottom line is that the best, most cost effective and most sustainable way to combat harmful indoor air contaminants in your workplace and home is to introduce plants.”

More details about these findings – including an extended bibliography – can be found here.

Indoor plants that clean the air

Many indoor plants can help clean the air by removing toxins and improving indoor air quality. Here are some of them:

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) 

Also known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, this plant is effective at removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene from the air. It’s also incredibly hardy and requires very little maintenance.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

This plant removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from the air. It also produces beautiful white flowers. However, it’s important to note that Peace Lilies are toxic to cats and dogs.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

This is one of the easiest houseplants to grow, making it a great choice for beginners. It’s known for its ability to remove formaldehyde and xylene from the air.

Aloe Vera

Besides being known for its healing properties, Aloe Vera can also purify the air of formaldehyde and benzene, which are byproducts of certain cleaners, paints, and other household products.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) 

This plant is very good at removing formaldehyde and xylene from the air. They prefer cooler temperatures and high humidity, so they might require a bit more care than some of the others on this list.

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)

This plant is a powerful toxin eliminator and air purifier. It removes formaldehyde from the air.


Both heartleaf and selloum philodendrons are known for their ability to cleanse the air of formaldehyde.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

This plant is great for removing toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene.


There are many types of dracaena plants, and they are effective at removing trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, and toluene from the air.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Also known as Devil’s Ivy, this plant is known for removing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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