Imagine you’re waiting for your ride on the street, and in all of the sudden a bus comes passing by, leaving behind a cloud of dark smoke. For many people, this is an unpleasant experience, yet the fact is this is what’s happening to a majority of urban residents in Jakarta.
A must-have tool for someone who lives in a big city. Source: bintang.com
The problem is, the exhaust of a vehicle can be bad for your health upon inhalation. Why? Simply because that smoke contains various toxic chemicals, including phenanthrene.
Phenanthrene does not only come from automotive exhaust, but it is also found in cigarette smoke, burning trash, and charcoal combustion.
Someone who lives in the urban or industrial area is more prone to phenanthrene exposure. This is worrying as long term inhalation of the compound may increase the risk of cancer and heart failure.
Fortunately, there is a simple way we can do to reduce phenanthrene polution, which is to grow Asoka plant.
Asoka flowers. Source: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/ixora-coccinea/
Asoka (Ixora sp.) is often found surrounding us as the plant grows well in tropical areas. In Indonesia, the plant is used to decorate the fence or garden.
Native to India, this plant apparently has a great feature, more than as a decoration. A group of researcher from the University of Chulalongkorn in Thailand found that Asoka could effectively reduce the level of phenanthrene in the air. The plant is able to bind phenanthrene in its tissues, therefore lowering the circulation of this hazardous compound in the air.
In their research, Waight and colleagues stated that Asoka is the best plant for pollution control since it has wide leaves, which contain wax to entrap phenanthrene from the air at a large amount.
Interestingly, such ability is also linked to certain bacteria living on the surface of Asoka leaves. These bacteria can “eat” phenanthrene on the surface of leaves and use this compound for their own growth.
In conclusion, Asoka could potentially be a great tool to clean up the air from hazardous compounds. By growing this plant, not only our surroundings will look dazzling, but it will also be healthier. So what are you waiting for? Let’s cultivate Asoka at home!
This article was written by Irrangga Ariskhan, Adiel Jessen Angarmona, Vania Dominika, and Joshua Muliawan as their final project in the Environmental Pollution Control and Bioremediation course. They are students at the Biology Program, Faculty of Biotechnology, Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia.