Day 30: About That NASA Study....

Blog Post created by AlexColvin on Mar 4, 2019

At one point today, I went to my boss's office, stood in the doorway and said, matter-of-factly, "Say,  'Congratulations'."


"Why?" She asked still looking at her computer monitor at something much more interesting than me.


"Because I have thirty-days not smoking."


"Excellent. Congratulations," She said to the monitor.


Then I left.  One does what one must to get his props.


Speaking of doing things in the name of not smoking, I have news  for you. I have it because, having spent ~ $100.00 on new indoor plants, pots,  and potting soil, it seemed only logical to try to determine whether indoor plants have any actual oxygenating benefit to indoor domestic living spaces. Nevermind that my research interest occured post-Cornelius shopping trip rather than the reverse as it should have been. Let's not quibble over details. 


Turns out, indoor plants actually don't have any definitive, quantitative effect on indoor air quality -- at least not to any substantial degree in normal work and living spaces.  We think they do, thanks to an extremely popular and well-known study conducted by three scientists with NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in St. Louis in 1989, titled, "Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement," You can read the report here.


Critics have found several problems with not only the NASA study but with the few other studies that attempted to determine if plants improve indoor air quality. Apparently, it's an under-studied topic among air-quality scholars. Why is unknown, but what is clear is there are no definitive studies of sufficient caliber to draw final conclusions.  Worse, the NASA study was conducted in a lab under optimal conditions with optimal plant varieties in small contained spaces, not as a field experiment in actual working offices or living spaces, so the results would have been applicable only to the air within said described small contained spaces using said optimal plants. Capiche? In addition,  scientists just last January discussed the NASA  study's findings for a Time magazine article and were not terribly impressed. See:  Markham Heid, "Can Indoor Plants Really Purify the Air?"  January 17, 2018.


But wait...there's more.  Today at work, dinner was cancelled because we're expecting a freeze and we can't have the little darlings growing icicles from their precious middle school noses or eyelashes. The cancellation was, of course, announced after I'd made three meatloaves for dinner, per the District production menu for today.  Said delicious loaves went into the freezer and will be used tomorrow.  Also, thanks to said anticipated freeze,  last night I took the precaution of  bringing indoors my several outdoor potted plants from the carport. I likewise covered up the front plant beds  and the  larger potted ones out back. And you know what? Indoors, those potted plants,  (ferns and pathos, mostly, ) look right nice. 


And -- lo and behold -- I remembered a watering technique I learned years ago from an ex-co-worker,  Eric,  whose studio apartment was more humid tropical jungle than living space: ice cubes. The trick is, rather than walk about with a jug and causing little dribbles to sprout from beneath plants pots, one can be lazy and efficient  and  place a few ice cubes on the soil of the plants, (not too many) give a quick MIST, and be on his way.


So today, I'm 30 days old and learned that plants can be an attractive addition to one's living space, even if their oxygenating and air-purifying benefits are largely unproven, scientifically.


I can live with that. Because, after  my somewhat disappointing research, I was, nevertheless,  also able to definitively establish that the space above Chester's dining area can actually be substantially improved with a little greenery. Who knew?   


Peace and gratitude,