Health Risks of Carpeting
There are many healthy, sustainable and eco-friendly choices for flooring today, yet many homeowners still prefer to install carpet in their homes. While organic untreated throw rugs are a much healthier option, there are a few precautions you can take to reduce your health risks from carpet.
Carpet has been linked with growing number of health risks. Typical carpets contain toxic chemicals in the fiber bonding materials, dyes, glues, binders, fungicides, and in the antistatic and stain-resistant treatments. Out-gassing can persist at high levels for up to three years. Most adhesives for carpet installation are solvent based and contain harmful chemicals. Most wool carpets are treated with highly toxic pesticides.
All carpets, even the best natural and untreated carpets harbor dirt, dust, mold, bacterial growth, and toxins from the outside. Even the common cleaning products contain harmful ingredients like perfumes, chemical soil removers and antibacterial agents.
Reported problems resulting from exposure to new carpet include decreased short term memory, loss of concentration, anxiety, headaches, confusion, joint and muscle pain, rashes, digestive disorders, reproductive abnormalities, asthma, insomnia, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity, and seizures. Children, particularly toddlers are more vulnerable due to their close proximity with the surface. In the book, Prescriptions for a Healthy House, there are several case studies which have shown how exposure to new carpeting has negatively impacted the lives of many.
What You Can Do
For those who choose to install carpets in their homes or offices, there are some steps that can be taken to minimize the risks and for choosing the least toxic carpeting:
- Use wool carpets that have not been treated with moth-proofing
- 100% nylon is the safest of the synthetic carpets
- Choose carpet that has little or no odor.
- Buy carpet from a dealer who will warehouse the carpet for you unrolled prior to installation and be sure to buy it early so it can “air out” before delivery.
- Do not buy carpet with fungicides or mildewcides.
- Do not buy stain resistant carpet.
- Choose woven backing over rubberized backing.
- Avoid carpeting and pads with styrene-butadiene rubber.
- Use non-toxic and odor-free shampoos and maintain carpets regularly to prevent mold, bacteria, dust and pesticide build-up.
- Vacuum regularly with a vacuum cleaner that is equipped with a true HEPA filter. Be sure to move furniture regularly.
- Establish a no-shoes policy in your home.
- If the carpet gets wet, dry it as quickly as possible to prevent microbial growth.
- NEVER use carpet in bathrooms or kitchens where it is exposed to high levels of moisture.
Source: Prescriptions for a Healthy House, Laporte, Elliott & Banta
Today there are many sources for natural carpeting and installation materials available if you do a bit of research. If you choose carpet, be sure to make it the healthiest choice available.
October 25, 2008 at 8:33 am
If you had to put carpet in your entire house, what kind would it be- do you have a favorite kind that you recommend?
October 25, 2008 at 10:55 am
I knew someone would want to know, so I am glad you asked early.
Since my personal choice would be wood floors with throw rugs that are easy to remove and clean, I am putting a link here to an excellent report that has a list of several different brand names to consider.
The link is to Green Seal’s “Choose Green” Report. The article has a ton of great info on carpets including a check list for shopping for green carpet and the list of suggested brands. There are several well know brands on the list.
There are also some new companies out there making organic and untreated wool carpeting that are worth checking into, but I have not personally purchased from them.
October 25, 2008 at 11:38 am
I checked out Debra’s list and she has some sources that I would most likely go to first.
For anyone who is not already familiar with http://www.debraslist.com, it is Debra Lynn Dadd’s site where she has put together some fantastic info on truly green products with links to sources as well as links to various informative articles.
Truly worth a browse.
October 25, 2008 at 12:24 pm
I have always been terrified of carpet myself… But Hank the Pug slides terribly on tile:)
October 25, 2008 at 7:22 pm
Nikki – I just bought a new home – all hardwood floors, except bathrooms and laundry room, which have tile. I am so excited – we move on Thursday. I hate carpet, but love rugs, so off to shop for some really nice wool rugs. Thanks for the link!
@Steve 🙂 too funny! I have a Keeshond who slides on wood floors; I guess he’ll be confined to the bathrooms and laundry room or we’ll have to buy velcro footpads.
October 26, 2008 at 5:08 am
No carpeting in my home any where for 20 years now. I have to read up on the stuff for my clients so I have a clue. Hate the stuff. Have no idea how to keep it clean. Have pets and spousal unit who rarely removes shoes when he is in the house.
October 26, 2008 at 7:44 am
What a great idea, to have them unroll it and let it air out. Never thought of that. Eventually my whole house will be hardwood floors, it is so much easier to maintain, especially with 4 dogs and one kitten. I rent that cleaner from ACO enough to have bought one.
I only use Oxyclean in it, not the chemicals that they want you to buy.
October 29, 2008 at 7:39 pm
Check out “Saving the World at Work” by Tim Sanders, for some great ideas on making a difference at work. Carpet companies are one of the biggest contributors of waste in our country. Received the book at Chicago R.E. Connect earlier this month and have found it very informative.
mold remediation NYC
April 28, 2010 at 12:56 am
True there are many options these days and many people are shifting from carpets to wooden floors…for easy maintaining and also safer healthy homes.