A New Company Claims Its Plants Can Purify Air 30 Times Better

neoplants product shoot, friday, april 19, 2024, in new york photo by jason decrow for neoplants
A New Company Claims Its Plants Can Purify AirCourtesy Neoplant / Jason DeCrow

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A new company, Neo PX, has just launched with their first product: a pothos plant that, it says, is able to remove 30 times the amount of certain VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, from the air as a traditional pothos plant.

Specifically, the plant removes four common VOCs that are often linked together and called BTEX, which stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. BTEX can be extremely harmful, and is found in rubber, plastics, nylon, dyes, and other places. It can build up in the home, causing health problems.

VOCs like this are particularly problematic because the airborne molecules are are not easily removed by air purifiers.

Plants are able to remove some of these pollutants through their natural air exchange, in a process called phytoremediation. Many people keep plants to purify the air in their homes, but unfortunately a typical houseplant isn't particularly effective at removing a lot of pollution; you'd need an unreasonable number of plants to make a difference.

But Neo PX's products, called Neoplants, have an engineered microbiome that is able to remove far more BTEX than a typical houseplant. The company has done multiple studies looking at how their plants remove VOCs and has produced a white paper explaining what they did and how they tested it.

a plant in a pot
Courtesy Neoplant

How Neoplants Work

I spoke with Lio Mora and Patrick Torbey, the cofounders of Neo PX to learn about how the plant works. They explained that their pothos plants have a microbiome—the bacteria that live on the plant, in its roots, and on the dirt around it—that has been engineered specifically to break down BTEX pollutants.

To do this, the company first identified strains of bacteria that were already good at breaking down these chemicals. Then they spent about 4 1/2 years breeding the bacteria over and over, selecting the strains that were most effective. Then they inoculated their pothos plants with that strain.

Because the bacteria do not easily self-replenish, customers who buy the plant also need to subscribe to receive monthly strains of the bacteria, which are kept in test tubes. Once per month, they mix the bacteria with water and pour it directly onto the pothos soil.

The cost to buy a plant and subscribe is currently about $200 for the first year, and $160 per year after that. That's $120 for the plant and a six-month supply of microbes, and then $40 for a 3-month supply of microbes after that.

The plant also comes in a special pot. Not only does the pot have a self-watering reservoir, to make watering easier, but it is also designed to maximize air flow around as much of the leaves and roots as possible. This is to help ensure it's as efficient as possible at breaking down any ambient VOCs.

a potted plant in front of a window
Christopher Michel

Testing the Neoplant

In order to see for myself whether the plant worked, and how easy or difficult it was to use, Lio and Patrick provided me with a sample to try at home, as well as with six months of the bacteria.

They recommend the plant be used in the bedroom, to be most effective. This makes sense, as it's where you're likely to spend the most time in one space.

Though some of the dirt came loose during shipping, the plant arrived in great condition. It was easy to unbox, and the bacteria-adding system is very easy. It comes with a glass beaker and stirring rod, and it's a straightforward process of stirring the contents of a test tube into some water and pouring it onto the dirt. It's simple, it's unfussy, and takes about 2 minutes.

As you can see from the photo above, I placed the pothos in my bedroom, near a window. The plant is perfectly pleasant, and the container even fit well into a stand that I happened to have.

Does the Neoplant Work?

Unfortunately, this is much harder to determine. Though VOCs are a known health issue, there are not accurate ways to easily test for them without access to expensive lab equipment.

I reached out to multiple phytoremediation experts to share the white paper and to ask if a plant like this would be even theoretically able to improve the air. One researcher, Professor Prashant Kumar, co-author of a recent meta-analysis on indoor air phytoremediation using potted plants did respond. He noted that it "seemed interesting" and said "if this plant does what it says, without unintended consequences, [it] could be interesting for use indoors."

But he was also clear that, because the studies have only shown what the plant can do in laboratory conditions, more testing would have to be done to see how effective it would be in actual living environments. "Even if it works, [it] may require tens of plants in a small room to make a significant difference."

Should You Buy a Neoplant?

If you're concerned about VOCs in general, and BTEX in particular, and are willing to pay for the subscription, this seems like it could be a smart investment.

Though it needs more real-world testing, Neo PX have created an interesting product and one of the few things on the market that could be effective at removing VOCs—without using chemicals or electricity. And Lio and Patrick have been clear that their ambitions will not end with this one plant. They're hoping to create even more effective products in the future.

<p><a href="https://neoplants.com/product/neo-px" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Neo Px</p><p>neoplants.com</p><p>$119.00</p><span class="copyright">Courtesy Neoplant</span>

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