I can’t add to the ideas Steve Marak presented,
but I can try some numbers. I hope the readers of Aroid-L will work
through my numbers here. It would be bad enough for me to look like an
idiot because I overlooked something that changes the results by a
factor of a hundred or so, but it would be worse for the wrong results
to stand without correction.
I asked a friend who did his doctoral work on
plant respiration and got the approximation that the emission of CO2 in
the dark is unlikely to exceed 4 micro moles per square meter of leaf
surface per second. This is the same as the O2 taken up. Say our plants
have a leaf area of one meter. Let’s say for the sake of argument that
both upper and lower leaf surfaces emit at that rate, so our plants use
up 8 micro moles PER SECOND (please excuse the upper case, but when we
think of a whole night the seconds really add up).
In an 8-hour night, we have the 8 micro moles/s
x 3600 s/h x 8 h = 230400 micro moles of oxygen the plants take up.
That is only millionths of moles, so it amounts to 0.23 mole. That got
the number back down in a hurry.
How much oxygen was in the room to start with?
A room 4 m x 4 m x 2.4 m has 38.4 cubic meters
of air. That is 38400 liters.
At room temperature, a mole of gas is about 25
liters, so the room has 1536 moles of air.
If we say the air in the room is 20 % oxygen,
we have 307 moles of oxygen to start with.
How much of the total oxygen in the room did
the plant use? It is 0.23/307 = 0.075 %.
What about our oxygen-starved sleeper?
A person breathes out about 900 g CO2 per day
or about 300 g in an 8-hour night.
CO2 has a mole weight of 44.
300/44 = 6.8 moles CO2 emitted = moles O2 taken
up by a person in the night.
The 6.8 moles of oxygen used by the sleeping
person amounts to only about 6.8/307 = 2.2 % of that available.
How do the plant and the sleeper compare? The
plant uses 0.23/6.8 = 3.4 % as much.
With all the guessing (“approximation” in
science-speak), none of the numbers has any meaning unless it’s rounded
off to only one digit. You can insist that a sleeping person uses less
oxygen than an active one, the room is smaller and the plant larger,
but that doesn’t change anything. A good-sized plant surface won’t
reduce the oxygen content of the room by much more than a tenth of a
percent, and that is only about three percent of what the inhabitant
If the sleeper is oxygen-starved, he or she
probably isn’t breathing right. It can’t be blamed on the plant. I’ve
known people who slept with their heads under the covers. That does