Plants in hospitals

Bill Williams bwilliam at
Tue Oct 27 09:15:26 EST 1992

In article <LEBOWITZ.92Oct21094828 at krypton.Mankato.MSUS.EDU> Robert J.
Lebowitz, lebowitz at krypton.Mankato.MSUS.EDU writes:
>Okay... here's a question which I got from a student who stopped by
my office 
>this morning.  According to the student, one of my colleagues stated
in lecture
>that some hospitals prohibit house plants in patients' rooms in order
>prevent a loss of oxygen during the evening when they respire.  While
>found this statement rather ludicrous myself, I could see a hospital 
>official making this kind of statement in order to limit houseplants
for some
>other reason (the mess they make, or perhaps the fact that nobody
takes care
>of them and they have to be thrown out later on).  
>Out of consideration for my colleague, I thought I'd ask if anyone
can cite a
>reference on this topic that supports this statement.  
>Gasp..... I've run out of oxygen writing this note..... Rob

I've always heard (and taught) this too, but the only reference I can
find quickly is in a modern textbook:  Salisbury and Ross(1992) Plant
Physiology, 4th ed.  On page 207 in a discussion of the history of
photosynthesis they say,

"Then a Duth physician, Jan Ingenhousz, demonstrated that light was
necessary for this purification of air.  He found that plants, too,
made "bad air" in darkness.  This surprisingly (to us) caused him to
recommend that plants be removed from houses during the night to avoid
the possibility of poisoning the occupants!  This and earlier
pioneering experiments in the early 1700s by Steven Hales were
reviewed by Gest (1988)."

The reference to Gest(1988) is "Sun-beams, cucumbers, and purple
bacteria," in Photosynthesis Research 19:287-308.

Hope this is of some help.
William E. Williams, bwilliam at
Divison of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
St. Mary's College of Maryland
St. Mary's City, MD 20686

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