Study shows plants deplete pollutants

Plants suck up chemicals in the air

Plants have always gotten a good rep for taking in carbon dioxide, but they may play a larger hand in reducing air pollution than once thought, according to a recent study published in the journal Science.

Researchers discovered that deciduous plants (plants that shed their leaves seasonally) actively consume a class of chemicals called oxygenated volatile organic compounds (oVOCs) four times more quickly than scientists previously thought. The plants are especially effective at the top of the tree canopy in dense forests, where they suck up to 97 percent of the chemicals out of the air. The study also found that plants under stress dramatically increased their intake of oVOCs, which leads scientists to believe consuming the pollutants is part of a larger metabolic cycle.

OVOCs form in the atmosphere from hydrocarbons and chemicals produced by man-made and natural resources. The chemicals combine with nitrogen oxides to form ozone, which can contribute to lung inflammation and asthma attacks.