Would you buy a GMO houseplant that could really scrub your air of pollutants?

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I’m Stuart Strand, Research Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. For 20 years, our lab, supported by the National Institutes of Health, Dept of Defense, and the National Science Foundation, has successfully designed plants that clean up pollutants in contaminated soils and water. Now we want to create house plants that can purify the air in your house.
The air in your home may have more benzene and chloroform (two cancer causing pollutants) than is allowed in the workplace. Every time you park your car in an attached garage or take a shower you are adding benzene and chloroform to your home air.
Rabbits have an enzyme in their liver (2E1) that grabs onto chloroform and benzene and gets oxygen from the air to burn up the pollutants. We have lab plants with the 2E1 gene that can remove chloroform and benzene 20 times faster than the untransformed plants. Now we want to take the rabbit enzyme and put it into a common houseplant, pothos ivy, making SuperPothos plants to protect your family.
Ordinary plants have some ability to clean the air, but the amount of foliage required to have a significant impact on pollutants would be hundreds of plants per room! SuperPothos plants could do the job with only a few plants per room. If you’re interested, take a look at our project website, http://www.indiegogo.com/SuperPothos/x/1889244?c=home ”
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Stuart Strand wrote:

Please explain where the benzene and chloroform gets into my showerhead and what concentration in the house air might develop from this practice and how that relates to the safety standards.

Which is quite impractical or even impossible for most people.

There is a movement that says you can sell anything in the western world if you invoke the boogieman of danger to children. This idea tells us to buy special products to sterilise the inside of our toilet bowls and every surface in our house and to have a machine on the wall that pumps out perfume/insecticide/ bactericide all day at timed intervals.
Now I would much prefer to house full of plants to splashing chemicals everywhere but I am doing neither until both the need and efficacy is demonstrated. Your web site seems devoid of both.
David
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On Tuesday, December 18, 2012 2:43:14 PM UTC-8, David Hare-Scott wrote:

The chloroform is in all municipal drinking water that has been disinfected with chlorine to prevent water borne disease (such as cholera). Chloroform is formed from the reaction of the chlorine with natural compounds (humics) are present in almost all waters. Chloroform is volatile, meaning that it comes out of the water into the air when you use hot water in your home. So you and your kids breathe this carcinogen.
Benzene comes from different sources in the home, not the shower (please read the FAQ!): cars parked in attached garages, fuel storage in the home, solvents, paints, even inks, woodstoves, and -- the big one -- second hand smoke.
Studies of volatile carcinogenic pollutants in the air in urban homes around the world including the US found levels that ranged into the regulated levels for benzene and chloroform and for formaldehyde (which our GMO does not degrade). for citations see the full proposal on our website. So most homes were below the workspace regulatory levels, but consider this: children and their adult caretakers spend nearly all of their time in these environments with these low level known carcinogens. These exposures are important.

Our children are precious
This idea tells us to buy

Dear David, If you live with chlorinated water, when you shower you fill your home air with chloroform. If you store your snow-blower or lawnmower or park your car in your garage you "splash" benzene into the air that your family breathes. Please read our website, especially the FAQ, to really understand these important issues and how our new technology can provide some relief.
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Stuart Strand wrote:

Exactly the same emotive motherhood and apple pie statement as any salesman would make. I thought that you were a scientist.

I don't. But for those who do how much chloroform and how much is dangerous? Your FAQ has no numbers.
If you store your snow-blower or

I read it and if you had read my questions you would know the FAQ doesn't address them. Until you provide evidence that there is a significant risk I won't be giving you money to develop a product to deal with it. So far you are still in the same category as those who want to charge me money to turn my toilet water blue.
D
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If you have any information that that chloroform, or benzene reach toxic levels in homes, you should share it. <http://www.hvchemical.com/msds/chlo.htm 11. === Toxicological Information == Toxicological Data: Chloroform: oral rat LD50: 908 mg/kg; skin rabbit LD50: > 20 gm/kg; inhalation rat LC50: 47702 mg/m3/4H; irritation data: skin rabbit 10 mg/24H open mild; eye rabbit: 20 mg/24H moderate; investigated as a tumorigen, mutagen, reproductive effector. Reproductive Toxicity: Birth defects have been seen in rats and mice exposed by inhalation of chloroform at concentrations greater than 100 ppm in air. Ingestion of chloroform by pregnant laboratory animals has resulted in fetotoxicity but not birth defects, and only at levels causing severe maternal effects.
--------\Cancer Lists\------------------------------------------------------ ---NTP Carcinogen--- Ingredient Known Anticipated IARC Category ------------------------------------ ----- ----------- ------------- Chloroform (67-66-3) No Yes 2B Ethyl Alcohol (64-17-5) No No None
From your presumed website: <http://faculty.washington.edu/sstrand/project5.html [W]e have expressed mammalian cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) in plants, achieving orders of magnitude greater oxidation of trichloroethylene in transgenic poplar. We are presently engaged in testing trichloroethylene degradation by wild-type and CYP2E1 transgenic poplar at field scale in a test bed facility capable of mass balance measurements. We are also studying the pathways and genetics of volatile organic compounds metabolism in plants, and to developing new applications for genetically modified phytoremediation.
It seems that you are far from your goals, and have over stated your case.
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On Tuesday, December 18, 2012 7:49:02 PM UTC-8, David Hare-Scott wrote:

So, David, I have posted a detailed and quantitative reply. Have you no comment on the data?
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thanks, still digesting it.
D
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On Tuesday, January 8, 2013 2:14:23 PM UTC-8, David Hare-Scott wrote:

David, No problem, I don't think Superpothos is going to take off on Indiegogo anyway. I see from reading recent posts on the list that you are near Sidney and probably a little preoccupied right now. Best luck.
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On 12/18/2012 4:25 PM, Stuart Strand wrote:

Seattle. For 20 years, our lab, supported by the National Institutes of Health, Dept of Defense, and the National Science Foundation, has successfully designed plants that clean up pollutants in contaminated soils and water. Now we want to create house plants that can purify the air in your house.

pollutants) than is allowed in the workplace. Every time you park your car in an attached garage or take a shower you are adding benzene and chloroform to your home air.

benzene and gets oxygen from the air to burn up the pollutants. We have lab plants with the 2E1 gene that can remove chloroform and benzene 20 times faster than the untransformed plants. Now we want to take the rabbit enzyme and put it into a common houseplant, pothos ivy, making SuperPothos plants to protect your family.

required to have a significant impact on pollutants would be hundreds of plants per room! SuperPothos plants could do the job with only a few plants per room.

Not on my budget. I see on net that some plants are better than others. I'd go for them if so inclined but I'm not. I'm not afraid of < a ppb of any common chemical in the air I breathe.
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On Tuesday, December 18, 2012 3:37:45 PM UTC-8, Frank wrote:

Yeah, Frank, but I'll bet that you're not as susceptible to those common known carcinogens as the babies that spend all of their time breathing those common home air pollutants.
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On 12/18/2012 9:51 PM, Stuart Strand wrote:

Seattle. For 20 years, our lab, supported by the National Institutes of Health, Dept of Defense, and the National Science Foundation, has successfully designed plants that clean up pollutants in contaminated soils and water. Now we want to create house plants that can purify the air in your house.

causing pollutants) than is allowed in the workplace. Every time you park your car in an attached garage or take a shower you are adding benzene and chloroform to your home air.

benzene and gets oxygen from the air to burn up the pollutants. We have lab plants with the 2E1 gene that can remove chloroform and benzene 20 times faster than the untransformed plants. Now we want to take the rabbit enzyme and put it into a common houseplant, pothos ivy, making SuperPothos plants to protect your family.

foliage required to have a significant impact on pollutants would be hundreds of plants per room! SuperPothos plants could do the job with only a few plants per room.

carcinogens as the babies that spend all of their time breathing those common home air pollutants.

Maybe. I'm a retired chemist and have been exposed to more of these things then the average person and, so far, am cancer free.
I understand that we chemists live longer than average - must be all those chemicals.
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Frank, back in the day I knew chemists who routinely smoked in the lab; you could tell because there were lots of burn marks along the edge of the lab bench. And these were organic chemists, with flammable solvent bubbling away in the nearby hood! LOL! But they would assure me that, no worries: they hadn't been blown up yet.
If you are a scientist, you should read the literature on toxicology and not spout nonsense.
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On 1/2/2013 9:48 PM, Stuart Strand wrote:

known carcinogens as the babies that spend all of their time breathing those common home air pollutants.

could tell because there were lots of burn marks along the edge of the lab bench. And these were organic chemists, with flammable solvent bubbling away in the nearby hood! LOL! But they would assure me that, no worries: they hadn't been blown up yet.

Maybe I am being flippant but I'm probably in the upper 1% of those with a knowledge of toxicology.
I had lunch with a government official one day that told me he did not want a single molecule of a chlorine containing compound in his glass of water. I did not have the time or inclination to teach him about Avogadro's number.
Those that practice chemo-phobia on the uninitiated try to scare them by telling them of the nasties in their air, food and drink even though they are present in quantities far below where they can cause any harm.
You won't be selling your plants to me ;)
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On Thursday, January 3, 2013 12:32:53 PM UTC-8, Frank wrote:

I'm sure not going to change your mind, but others less opinionated might want to learn about very real risks associated with indoor air pollutants by reading this short review of the scientific studies of these pollutants:
http://d2oadd98wnjs7n.cloudfront.net/medias/601477/files/20130102123743-Levels_of_indoor_air_pollutants.pdf?1357159066
or
http://preview.tinyurl.com/b3zjt2y
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Frank wrote: ...

anyone who claims to be a scientist should understand the errors in your statement.
on so many levels...
songbird
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Dear David (and Billy),
Sorry to be delayed in replying. I wanted to give you a summary of the latest research, so I had to bring myself up to speed with recent meta-analyses of the growing home air pollution literature. Also the holidays got in the way.
Anyway I have posted a short summary (pdf) with citations on the SuperPothos website (in the Gallery tab), titled "Levels and risks of indoor air pollutants"
http://d2oadd98wnjs7n.cloudfront.net/medias/601477/files/20130102121643-Levels_of_indoor_air_pollutants.pdf?1357157806
http://www.indiegogo.com/SuperPothos/x/1889244?c=home ”
In summary, the most common and highest level cancer-causing organic indoor air pollutants are 1,4-dichlorobenzene, acrolein, formaldehyde, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acetaldehyde, naphthalene, acrylonitrile, carbon tetrachloride, and chloroform. In most or some homes, these pollutants occur in concentrations high enough to pose significant risk of cancer. Most of these pollutants can be degraded by the cytochrome P450 2E1 enzyme that we have expressed in lab plants and wish to express in SuperPothos enhanced houseplant.
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Stuart Strand wrote:

thanks
http://d2oadd98wnjs7n.cloudfront.net/medias/601477/files/20130102121643-Levels_of_indoor_air_pollutants.pdf?1357157806
This URL gives me a 403 error, security.
D
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On Wednesday, January 2, 2013 6:34:43 PM UTC-8, David Hare-Scott wrote:

OK, sorry about the confusion. Two options:
1. Try this URL: http://d2oadd98wnjs7n.cloudfront.net/medias/601477/files/20130102123743-Levels_of_indoor_air_pollutants.pdf?1357159066
2. Go to the indiegogo website, click on the gallery tab and download the pdf labeled "Levels_of_indoor_air_pollutants"
http://www.indiegogo.com/SuperPothos/x/1889244?c=home
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It's a little confusing in that you seem to be suggesting at least two products. One to remove benzene and chloroform. and another to remove chloroform, benzene, carbon tetrachloride and styrene. What, no aldehyde removal for our FEMA trailer homes? What are suggested levels for these toxins, and what are their household levels typically? Yeah, I could look it up, but you are the one doing the selling. Sell me.
A little quantification would also be nice. Compared to other house plants, like a natural pothos, with equal surface areas, at STP, how much time is required to remove a given amount of benzene, or chloroform from the test area?
Do you realize that a cytochrome P450 2E1 enhanced tobacco plant would be of little interest to gardeners (as a house plant?) because of the mosaic tobacco virus? Removing chloroform, benzene, carbon tetrachloride and styrene from the home environment is a desirable action, but removing the sources of this contamination may be more practical.
Lastly, please don't try to dissuade Frank from smoking around open containers of ether.
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On Sunday, January 6, 2013 3:49:05 PM UTC-8, Billy wrote:

Happy to clear up issues: We are presently proposing only one gene in houseplants: the mammalian cytochrome P450 2E1, which attacks and degrades benzene, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, dichlorobenzene, and several other volatile organic compounds that frequently exceed health standards in home air. Formaldehyde is a desirable target of course, but 2E1 does not degrade formaldehyde. We are looking at other formaldehyde degrading genes for future work, but so are other groups in China and Japan, especially.
Of course we don't propose to use transgenic tobacco as a houseplant, that would be impractical for a variety of reasons. But since tobacco is easily transformed we transformed it as a proof -of-concept. Tobacco transformed with 2E1 degraded benzene and the other pollutants more than 20x faster than untransformed tobacco in small scale experiments. We expect that transformed pothos ivy will have the same increased pollutant destroying capability. We think we are already close to having a 2E1 transformed pothos and will have confirming data this week.
As for the pollutant levels that are present in homes, the little review I wrote gives a good summary of the current literature. http://preview.tinyurl.com/b3zjt2y
I don't think it is too difficult to read, but to summarize, most US homes have levels of benzene (2ug/m3) that are close to or exceed maximum health standards for chronic exposures (0.3 ug/m3). the same applies to dichlorobenzene (2 and 0.9 ug/m3 respectively) and carbon tetrachloride (0.6 and 0.24 respectively). Chloroform levels in showering typically exceed the one hour acute exposure standards (150 ug/m3).
As far as getting rid of sources, that is certainly the best mitigation action, but it is not easy. Benzene is emitted from fuel storage in attached garages, so you would need to find another place to park your car and store your lawn mover, no smoking, no indoor fires, including perhaps cooking. Chloroform is present in all chlorinated water, so, unless you use your own well, you will need a whole house activated carbon filtration, with frequent and costly switching out of the filter. Carbon tet comes from outside (as does a lot of benzene), so that is a problem. We think our superpothos would make a good alternative and could result in a decrease in the levels of these carcinogens, which even if the reduction is only partial would decrease cancers in the US.
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