Plant-based remediation of air pollution

The effects on human health due to poor air quality mainly involve the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Plant-based remediation of air pollution

The effects on human health due to poor air quality mainly involve the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollution depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, the individual's health and genetics.

Indoor air pollution and poor urban air quality are listed as two of the worst toxic pollution problems in the world in the 2008 report. Outdoor air pollution causes 2.1 to 4.21 million deaths every year. Overall, air pollution causes the deaths of approximately 7 million people worldwide each year and is the single largest environmental health risk in the world.

The Plant-based remediation of air pollution: A review, published on the Journal of environmental management, explained: "Humans face threats from air pollutants present in both indoor and outdoor environments. The emerging role of plants in remediating the atmospheric environment is now being actively investigated as a possible solution for this problem.

Foliar surfaces of plants can absorb a variety of airborne pollutants (e.g., formaldehyde, benzene, trimethylamine, and xylene), thereby reducing their concentrations in indoor environments. Recently, theoretical and experimental studies have been conducted to offer better insights into the interactions between plants and the surrounding air .

In our research, an overview on the role of plants in reducing air pollution (often referred to as phytoremediation) is provided based on a comprehensive literature survey. The major issues for plant-based research for the reduction of air pollution in both outdoor and indoor environments are discussed in depth along with future challenges.

Analysis of the existing data confirms the eff ectiveness of phytoremediation in terms of the absorption and purification of pollutants (e.g., by the leaves and roots of plants and trees), while being controlled by different variables.

Although most lab-scale studies have shown that plants can effectively absorb pollutants, it is important for such studies to reflect the real-world conditions, especially with the influence of human activities. Under such conditions, pollutants are to be replenished continually while the plant surface area to ambient atmosphere volume ratio vastly decreases (e.g., relative to lab-based experiments).

The replication of such experimental conditions is the key challenge in this field of research. This review is expected to offer valuable insights into the innate ability of various plants in removing diverse pollutants (such as formaldehyde, benzene, and particulate matter) under different environmental settings."