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.