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Wednesday, 17 November 2010 20:39

Plants suck up toxins

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Some common air pollutants found in cities can be absorbed by plants at far greater rates than ever suspected.

The discovery has big implications for modeling how vegetation affects pollutants, as well as how particles in the atmosphere affect human health and global warming.

The finding comes from a fruitful and unusual collaboration of plant geneticists and atmospheric scientists. The plant scientists found the genes used by plants and the conditions under which they are activated to allow more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to be absorbed. The atmospheric scientists lugged equipment around the globe to verify that the plants were indeed sucking up pollutants in the real world.

“It’s been hard to measure this in the real world,” said Thomas Karl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “That’s why we hauled this instrument all around the world.”

Among the specific discoveries is that deciduous plants take up about a third more oxygenated VOCs — a form of pollutant that has reacted with oxygen —  than previously thought. These oxygenated VOCs come from burning gasoline, forest and other biomass fires and are even released by some kinds of trees.

“The trees actually clean up more than we thought,” said Karl.

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This Must Be the Place

  • This must be the place

    art theplaceMary Harper was quite possibly the first real friend I made when I moved to Western North Carolina.

    With my apartment a few blocks away from the Water’n Hole Bar & Grill in Waynesville, I ventured down there at night trying to see what was up in this town, trying to make some friends, and trying not to feel alone and isolated in a new place where I was unknown to all who surrounded me. Harper, with her million-dollar smile and swagger, immediately made me feel at home. 

    Written on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 00:00 Read more...