Back in 1989,NASA released its now-famous study that showed that certain houseplants could clean indoor air by removing airborne chemicals and sequestering them in the soil. But why did they conduct that study to begin with? It was, according to their scientists, “a promising, economical solution to indoor air pollution.” (Houseplants, coincidentally, soared in popularity.) 

In the 1970s, America found itself in the middle of an energy crisis. To combat it, the government began imposing building regulations to make new construction more energy-efficient. One side effect was that all this new air-tight construction was keeping out fresh air, and trapping in all the chemicals upon which our modern lives rely. Cleaning products, air conditioners, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) released by carpets and furniture (and printes and copy machines in offices) took their toll—people began reporting symptoms like headaches, dizziness, wheezing and other breathing trouble, and, notably, mental fatigue. The term “sick building syndrome” was coined to describe the phenomenon. Recent studies have also linked poor air quality with an increased risk of developing depression.

Luckily, these problems can be mitigated right in your own home and office. These common, easy-to-grow houseplants have been shown by actual rocket scientists to clean the air we breathe.