The rumor started back in the 1990s.
During the energy crisis of the 1970s more and more buildings became more tightly sealed, which led to many claims of “sick building syndrome.”
The idea was that air being recirculated in highly sealed buildings was dangerous and becoming akin to being in an airplane.
NASA and the Landscapers Association floated the idea that indoor plants might be the answer.
The idea seemed to make sense, plants around the office would take the CO2 out of our sealed buildings and get more oxygen in the air and might actually filter the air.
They proposed an interesting planter which also used activated charcoal to help clear the air.
But unfortunately, scientists say it’s just not going to work.
“‘It’s such an alluring and enticing idea,’ Elliott Gall, a Portland State University professor, told me. ‘But the scientific literature shows that indoor houseplants—as would be typically implemented in a person’s home—do very little to clean the air.’”
The promising 1989 report from NASA is just not workable.
It turns out that in order to make such a scheme work, it would require a complex hydroponic farm with all the lighting necessary to run a respectable commercial cannabis operation.
It turns out that NASA was correct if the plant configuration was used in a sealed chamber (like a spaceship) but not in a typical house or office.
And office space would get very cramped. If you were relying on plants to clean the air in a 10’ by 10’ room with an eight-foot ceiling, you would need 1,000 plants to equal the equivalent effect of changing the air over once an hour.
That’s one plant for every square foot.
And that’s in a sealed room.
Then there is the humidity problem.
Having all those plants requires a great deal of water, and plants release some of it in the air too.
And then there is another problem…plants tend to attract insects.
Why You Might Want to Have Plants
That is not to say all the science is down on having plants at the office.
It might have a positive effect on your mood.
The study compared two groups of 12 men who were given two tasks – one group worked on a computer and the other transplanted plants.
The plant group had a slight drop in their blood pressure and reported being happier.
The study suggested that since humans spend up to 85% of their time indoors, getting a little dirt under your fingernails might be good for you.
The NASA study on plants is often cited to make the case for more plants in the office, but most of the people who use the study are the ones trying to sell you the plants.
Which brings up another point, the NASA study was done in conjunction with the Landscaping Association, and for some reason, no one has ever complained about the very serious conflict of interest in the study?