What’s This About NASA and Plants?

I mentioned Monday that NASA had been doing work on house plants and their air cleaning properties as far back as the 1970s. I wasn’t making that up. Their first report came out in 1974 and was a study of how plants might function in space–on Skylab (anyone old enough to remember Skylab? It was the precursor to the International Space Station).

Their next report came out in 1989–just as they were getting ready to start more exploration–here on earth. Remember that failed experiment in the desert called Biosphere 2? The people couldn’t live in it–the plants, however, are still living and thriving in it, I believe. It is under the control of the University of Arizona.

That NASA report can be read, in its entirety here. I will need to talk about the findings in greater detail–and how they apply to us as ordinary gardeners–in succeeding posts. But the opening paragraph is really telling.

It talks about how, in the 1970s, in response to the various energy crises, we started making our homes and buildings more “energy efficient:” in other words, sealing them tightly so that heat or cooling or both didn’t escape. That led to the phenomena known as “sick building syndrome” and led NASA to investigate how plants might be a means to combat the chemicals in these buildings.

The take-away: those of us that live in drafty old energy in-efficient homes might actually be healthier for it, even if we don’t have plants. But if you have a newer, tightly sealed home (or office), NASA has the plants to help. More on Monday.

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