Plants Are Some of Nature’s Best Air Purifiers

You may have already been aware that plants are one of nature’s best filters. Within the last few months, we have highlighted several plants that act as natural water purifiers. Oregano kills bacteria and viruses in water, as one high school student recently discovered through a science project. In addition, Moringa tree seeds kill bacteria, and may be used to provide clean water to people in developing nations in the future.

Plants are also some of nature’s best air purifiers. Though it has long been known that plants are able to take in carbon dioxide, researchers recently reported that plants clean air pollution even better than previously expected. Some plants excel at taking in chemicals known as oxygenated volatile organic compounds (oVOC’s), which form in the atmosphere from hydrocarbons and other chemicals from sources such as cars, construction, and ironically – plants. These chemicals have a negative long-term health impact on humans and their environment.

For better indoor air quality, you may want to keep several house plants around. These require extra responsibility, however, so if you’re looking for a lower-maintenance solution to your respiratory ailments, or if you want to improve on the performance of your plants, you may want to consider one of our many air purifiers. If you visit our website and the selection is too much to bear (we know – it’s pretty extensive), then look out for our buyer’s guide on air purifiers to be released in the near future.

Moringa Tree Brings Clean Water to Developing Nations

The water treatment process in America and other developed nations uses chemicals like chlorine to rid water of bacteria and other pathogens. The end result is often similar to what you would taste if you accidentally swallowed the water in your neighbor’s swimming pool (unless you choose to purchase a home water filtration system that reduces chlorine taste and odor).  Sadly, developing countries are not so fortunate…

However, a new project funded by the $10,000 Environmental Protection Agency P3 grant (P3 = people, prosperity and planet) has been undertaken by three Penn State engineers to bring clean water to the developing world. The project is a water treatment process involving the moringa seed, which is known for its ability to purify water and food.

Here’s how it works: Moringa seeds contain cationic (positively-charged) proteins. Each protein contains a peptide sequence that acts as a molecular knife, cutting into the cell walls of bacteria and killing them. Because the protein is positively charged, it clings to and wraps up sediment, which is negatively charged, causing it to settle out of water very quickly. Moringa has been used for thousands of years to clarify water. In fact, the idea of using plants for water purification, in general, is not new. You may recall our post on a water filter that uses oregano to kill pathogens.

There are several advantages to purifying water with the moringa seed. The technology is locally acceptable, sustainable and easily accessed by those in developing countries; it may be grown right within a village, lessening the need for the transport of chemicals. The moringa seed grows naturally in harsh environments. Not only does it bring food and water purification; the oil inside the seeds can also be sold for a profit. In addition, the leaves of the moringa tree are highly nutritious, containing loads of vitamins, minerals and proteins, and can be fed to malnourished children.

But the project is not without its challenges. The research team still has a lot of work to do in terms of perfecting the purification process. Other proteins and organic matter in the seeds add biological oxygen to the water that bacteria use as food, allowing any bacteria in the water to grow. As a result, the water does not stay clean for very long and can only be stored for about a day. To counter this problem, the team suggests adding crushed moringa seeds to the water so the proteins can get in, then adding sand to which the active protein will anchor while the inactive proteins and organic matter are rinsed away. Data shows that the active sand that remains can kill pathogens; it is this active sand that will be the essence of the water purifier.

Convincing the people in developing nations that their water supply is unsafe and in need of purification is another challenge the team will face. Surprisingly, even though they may get sick, they often don’t attribute the cause to a dirty water supply.

Spaghetti Sauce: The Secret to Clean Water

Alyson Bell is one of four people chosen for this year’s Manning Young Canadian Innovation Award.  This high school student’s ability to turn her curiosity into a creative solution at the Canada-wide science fair, has won her this award among others, including a $500 Manning Innovation Achievement Award – given to eight people each year – along with university entrance scholarships and $40,000 worth of prizes for her science fair project.

The project is a natural water filter that uses oregano to filter bacteria from water.  Bell figured out the secret to clean water from her grandfather’s oregano-dense spaghetti sauce recipe.  Wondering how the sauce was able to last over three weeks in the refrigerator without spoiling, Bell tested her hypothesis, that oregano keeps bacteria from growing, in a petri dish.  Finding her hypothesis to be correct, she turned these results into an innovative water filter made with fresh oregano layered between sandy gravel and charcoal.  Contaminated water that passed through the filter was disease-free.

But are Bell’s results really that innovative?  It has long been known that oregano has numerous health benefits.  Wild oil of oregano is often used as a holistic alternative to traditional medicine, to boost immunity and prevent disease.  It has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-parasitic properties, so it’s no surprise that it would work as a filter for contaminated water.  According to a recent article announcing Bell’s achievement, the oregano-filtered water “came out clean and potable.”  But, the question remains:

Did it taste like grandfather’s spaghetti?