This plant is worth thirty to purify the air of toxic molecules and it is already being snapped up in California

This plant is worth thirty to purify the air of

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    It looks innocent as a green plant, but its trade name gives it away: Neo Px is a biotechnological plant capable of purifying indoor air, the first in a potential long line of plants with superpowers.

    That’s the equivalent of 30 ordinary houseplants“, assures Lionel Mora, co-founder of the start-up Neoplants, from a greenhouse in Lodi, two hours from San Francisco. “It captures, eliminates and recycles some of the most harmful pollutants found in your home“.

    More than 5 years ago, this French entrepreneur met Patrick Torbey, a doctor in genome editing, who dreamed of creating living organisms “with functions”.

    There were plants around us, and we said to ourselves that the most powerful function we could add to them was to purify the air“, says Lionel Mora.

    Several thousand pothos, green plants speckled with white, around twenty centimeters high, are waiting to be placed in their appropriate pot, then packaged and shipped.

    We do our best to send as many plants as possible every week, but it is not enough to meet demand for the moment“, comments the boss.

    The start-up based near Paris began marketing its first product in the United States at the end of April, where it obtained approval from the authorities.

    A particularly favorable first market since many Americans already have air purifiers.

    Toxic molecules

    Furthermore, “they are sensitive to the problem of forest fires. However, combustion emits benzene, and it is one of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that we target“, notes Lionel Mora.

    Even without living in California or a city with heavy car traffic, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, primarily due to VOCs. .

    And opening the windows is not enough. Because these molecules are continuously emitted by numerous solvents, glues and paints, and therefore by cleaning products, furniture and walls of homes and offices where humans spend the vast majority of their time.

    These substances pose numerous health risks, including cancer“, especially for the youngest, the oldest and people who are already vulnerable, underlines Tracey Woodruff, professor of reproductive sciences at UCSF University, and specialist in chemical pollutants.

    They can irritate the respiratory tract, affect the development of the fetus, cause miscarriagesand are also associated with cognitive and neurological declines, such as Parkinson disease“, she lists.

    Neo Px does not absorb VOCs itself. It is sold – at least $120 – with sachets of powder, enough for six months, which contain a microbiome, essentially a bacterial strain.

    This bacteria colonizes the roots of the plant, its soil and its leaves, explains Patrick Torbey, the technological director, in the company’s laboratory in Saint-Ouen, a suburb of Paris.

    Genetically modified plants

    She is the one who “absorbs VOCs, to grow and reproduce. The plant is there to create this ecosystem for the bacteria. So we have a system of symbiosis between plants and bacteria“, he explains

    Subsequently, Neoplants intends to produce genetically modified plants, whose metabolism would directly recycle them.

    And in the longer term, she hopes to tackle problems linked to global warming.

    We could increase the capacity of trees to capture CO2“, says the engineer. Or even “develop seeds that are more resistant to drought“, suggests Lionel Mora.

    This vision, coupled with the team’s scientific expertise, encouraged Vincent Nallatamby, product director at Google, to invest in the start-up from its beginnings.

    He now has his own microbiome-enhanced pothos, which goes unnoticed in his San Francisco living room, already well stocked with houseplants of all sizes.

    It’s mostly my wife who takes care of it, except for this one. This one is me!“, he jokes, showing the Neo Px pot, whose reservoir allows the plant to regulate its water needs itself.

    “JI am often seduced by technological objects that I want to have at home“, he relates. “This is one of the first times where I had no trouble convincing my wife“.

    Indoor air pollution: how to breathe better at home

    Slide: Indoor air pollution: how to breathe better at home