I believe that the filtering and oxygen production of green plants is well established. Do those plants NASA approves for air filtration "emit" anything other than clean oxygen and perhaps benign esters (?) that would be a concern in an operating theater or are they environmentally benign?

My thought is that a well selected set of plants throughout the hospital might give the facility an edge in cleansing the environment that continues to elude hospitals using a more "clean room" approach.

Naive? Do these plants help eliminate airborne disease or would they contribute more filth to the environment?

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    You've been asking a bunch of questions lately, and I enjoyed answering the fist bump vs handshake one, but in general your questions will be better received if they come along with some more prior research into the topic (which is feedback you've gotten before and responded to). Also I don't see how the picture you posted here is at all relevant to the question, it's just added fluff, and the question in general has a bit of a rant quality with the references to the sterile hospital approach.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 17, 2019 at 22:47
  • I hope that comes off less as a rant.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 17, 2019 at 22:56
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    Soil is a great growth medium for bacteria and fungi.
    – Carey Gregory
    Apr 18, 2019 at 0:38
  • So are houseplants considered an infection risk for humans? I mean, most of the earth is bacteria. But I would imagine that the idea would be not have soil.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 18, 2019 at 0:44
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    No, houseplants aren't an infection risk for normal, healthy humans, but normal, healthy humans don't have their body cracked open and exposed to the atmosphere. Although you could use hydroponics, it would still be a challenge to keep the hydroponic solution sterile and many (all?) plants depend on microbes in their root systems. Although you might be able to avoid increasing infection risks with great effort and expense, I can't imagine how it would reduce infection risks.
    – Carey Gregory
    Apr 18, 2019 at 1:09

1 Answer 1


Perhaps a good idea for separate lobbies or waiting rooms, but definitely not for operating suites or patient care areas.

Plants use CO2 and release O2, which is good. They also do filter VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other air toxins, primarily via the microorganisms living on their roots. Also good. There is a ton of research including the NASA research you referenced on the benefits of plants for indoor air quality.

But the toxins that a plant would filter from the air are actually not involved (or at most minimally involved) in hospital-acquired infections, which result from transmission of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. So they wouldn't help further "clean" the hospital from clinically significant pathogens. If anything, the soil would foster growth of some pathogens, and stirring it up even just with air flow could contaminate patients. As a comment mentioned, you would definitely NOT want that when someone is sick and immunocompromised, or intubated, or cut open on a table, or healing from wounds.

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    How do you reconcile your answer with Siegman-Igra, et al. (1986)? Apr 18, 2019 at 18:22
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    Interesting! I'm curious about the study design, I'll take a look at it to assess the external validity
    – DoctorWhom
    Apr 18, 2019 at 19:31
  • Thought you'd find that interesting. I did when I first saw the question and started looking at published studies. I'll be interested in your take on it when you have had a chance to review it yourself Apr 18, 2019 at 20:08

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