Fact-check: Debunking the Myth of Snake Plants Providing Oxygen in Sealed Rooms

Do snake plants possess the extraordinary ability to produce enough oxygen for humans to survive in an airtight environment? A viral Facebook post claims so, citing a NASA study. However, a closer examination of the facts reveals that this claim is false.

Uncovering the Truth

The Facebook post references a NASA Clean Air Study that supposedly supports the claim. While it is true that NASA conducted a study on plants’ ability to combat indoor air pollution, it did not draw conclusions about their capacity to sustain human life in a sealed room. The study, conducted in partnership with a landscaping trade association, investigated the effectiveness of various plants in reducing toxins such as benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.

Among the plants studied was the snake plant, also known as Sansevieria laurentii or mother-in-law’s tongue. The research found that snake plants, along with other plant varieties, could remove these toxins from the air. However, the study did not explore the implications of introducing humans into the chambers or their ability to generate sufficient oxygen to support human survival in a sealed room.

The Limitations of the Study

The claim made in the Facebook post exaggerates the findings of the NASA study. The study, published in 1989, was primarily focused on improving indoor air quality and promoting the use of plants indoors. The study authors acknowledged that further research was needed to understand the effects of humans living in sealed environments with plants as their primary life support.

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Since the publication of the NASA study, other researchers have conducted studies on the impact of plants on indoor air pollution. A review of multiple studies conducted over 30 years by scientists at Drexel University revealed that plants are not as effective at cleaning indoor air as previously believed. The natural air exchange in buildings, including open windows and air handling systems, outperforms plants in removing volatile organic compounds.

The Reality of Indoor Air Quality

While snake plants and other houseplants have been shown to reduce toxins in indoor environments, they do not possess the ability to significantly improve air quality or provide enough oxygen for human survival in sealed rooms. Relying solely on plants for air purification is impractical, as it would require an impractically large number of plants and cause other issues, such as increased humidity.

The Verdict

Contrary to the viral Facebook post, there is no evidence to support the claim that snake plants can sustain human life in sealed rooms. The NASA study did not explore this scenario, and subsequent research has shown that plants are not effective enough at cleaning indoor air or providing adequate oxygen for human survival.

So, while snake plants may be aesthetically pleasing and contribute to reducing indoor air pollution, humans still require proper ventilation and other means of air circulation for optimal air quality and survival.

Snake Plant

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Video: Snake Plants and Indoor Air Quality