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Air and Water Filters

Is Your Carpet Toxic?

toxic carpet

Many people love their indoor carpeting and look forward to having brand new wall to wall carpeting installed. Did you realize however, that no matter how clean you keep your rug, even if you steam clean it weekly, it is still highly toxic to you, your family and your pets?

Over 60% of homes in the USA have carpeting. Carpets cover the floors of our business and schools. Children play for hours on them, infants crawl on them and breathe deeply of their fumes, proud homeowners inhale that ‘new-carpet smell’, and all the while we are being poisoned by the chemicals, allergens and toxic dust that lurks in our carpets.

Whether your carpets are new or old, they probably have more bad things in them than you want to imagine. The list is staggering. For new carpets there are ‘volatile organic compounds’ VOC’s. These include toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, styrene, acetone and a host of other chemicals, some of which have already made the EPA’s list of Extremely Hazardous Substances. Known carcinogens such as p-Dichlorobenzene are in new carpets, as are chemicals that produce fetal abnormalities in test animals. These chemicals also cause hallucinations, nerve damage and respiratory illness in humans.

Other compounds in new carpeting that affect your health are adhesives, stain protectors, mothproofing and flame retardants. That ‘new carpet smell’ comes from 4-PC, associated with eye, nose and upper respiratory problems that are suffered by many new carpet owners. 4-PC is used in the latex backing of 95% of US carpets. In 2000 the 3M Company removed the chemical perflouro-octanyl salphonate from their product, Scotchgard, because it had been found to cause reproductive problems in rats. It had also been found in high levels in the wildlife of urban areas. Mothproofing chemicals contain naphthalene, which is known to produce toxic reactions, especially in newborns. Fire retardants often contain PBDE’s (see our report Toxic Flame Retardants and Children’s Health) which are known to cause damage to thyroid, immune system and brain development functions in humans.

Older carpets can be more of a hazard than new ones: Not only do they contain the chemicals banned from more recent production, they also have had years to accumulate pounds of dust mites, dirt, pesticides and other toxins brought in on shoes, feet and pet’s paws. Did you know that your carpet can hold 8 times it’s weight in toxin filled dirt and you can’t even see the trapped dirt that your carpet is hiding! The EPA has stated that 80% of human exposure to pesticides happens indoors. Every time you spray for bugs or use a fogger, the chemicals settle in the rug and stay there for years. If you paint your room the curing paint leaves its VOC’s in the carpet for you to inhale long after the walls no longer smells of paint. Just put in a new wood or laminate floor? You’ll be living with those toxins, sealers, solvents and glues even after you clean with all the right products. Household dust contains lead and other heavy metals, because lead is in our soil and will be for a long time to come.

Older carpets are so toxic that your chances of being exposed to hazardous chemicals are 10-50 times higher in a carpeted room than outdoors. If the carpet is plush or shag, your risk increases substantially.

What can you do? First you can take action to reduce your exposure to carpet toxins. First, if you can, get rid of the carpeting. If not that, then vacuum with a well sealed high quality HEPA Vacuum Cleaner that can do a much better job of cleaning your carpets than the cheaper vacuum cleaners found at most department stores. Low quality vacuum cleaners are not sealed well! Even many of the so called filtered ones often leak air through gaps in their cases causing dirty air to blow back into your indoor environment! Steam cleaning can kill dust mites and bacteria. A good doormat will stop a lot of toxins right at the door. Take your shoes off when entering your house and you make it a much safer place. If you must buy a rug or carpet, choose one made of naturally flame retardant fibers such as wool, and get a woven rug. Don’t glue your new carpet to the floor, attach it with staples instead. Finally, get a Quality HEPA Air Cleaner or Air Purifier that will remove dust and toxins that rise from the carpet or rug every time you step on it or vacuum. If you follow as many of these precautions as possible, you will certainly have a cleaner and healthier home.

Another tip at Tree recommends the following when looking for a safer carpet. “First, look for carpets with the Green Label Plus Certification. In 2004 this initiative by the Carpet and Rug Institute certifies that carpets have passed independent laboratory tests for emissions from thirteen notorious chemicals. “.

Your best alternative is to seek area rugs made from natural fibers such as wool, hemp and corn husks laid on top of natural hard surface flooring. If that is not possible, open your windows and do the best you can with air filters because you can bet that your home is much more toxic than you ever realized.

This information, is brought to you by Absolute Air Cleaners and Purifiers Inc.
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About the author

Natural Living – who has written posts on A Much Better Way.


51 Responses to “Is Your Carpet Toxic?”

  1. It’s so important to at least do weekly cleaning with a STRONG vacuum cleaner.

    Posted by john | December 23, 2008, 11:36 am
  2. One thing i learned no matter what ask that the carpet is aried out before they install it. They can open it up and let it air out for 24 hours this way it gets rids of some of the chemicals before they bring it to your home.

    Posted by amy | March 1, 2009, 1:29 pm
  3. Old carpets carry way too much dust and the 5 second rule should definitely not apply in this case(or any other cases). Its best to just replace your carpets at least once or twice every 4 years.

    Posted by Chris | March 31, 2009, 6:08 pm
  4. I agree, you can take your own action by reducing your exposure to carpet toxins. Regular cleaning is imperative and should not fail. Intermittent cleaning as well as a full clean is important. Only then will your carpet last for a full 7-10 years.

    Posted by Bob | June 23, 2009, 2:53 pm
  5. Best of all is to have a naturally made carpet and to treat it with organic-based detergent in order to avoid this everyday inhalation of a variety of toxins!

    Posted by EcoCleanHome | June 24, 2009, 4:24 pm
  6. We have had a hemp rug for many years. It is a very hard working yet hard wearing rug. We have found it really easy to clean too. Highly recommended!

    Posted by John | June 30, 2009, 8:11 am
  7. Some choose carpets for design purposes only. If it blends with the room’s interior then it’s the right carpet so often the meticulous details like toxicity are neglected. If there are organic options then it should be opted.

    Posted by Rio | September 17, 2009, 4:15 am
  8. I agree that a HEPA vacuum cleaner is important. My son has asthma and recently we replaced our vacuum cleaner with one that did not have a HEPA filter on it. We had the old cleaner for many years and we did not think as it had a HEPA filter on it. A few days after we got it he started to suffer a lot. Needless to say that we have had to replace that for another. It just shows how somethings we cannot see are so important.

    Posted by Bill | October 27, 2009, 7:01 am
  9. That’s scary stuff! I have always preferred hard surface floors like wood,tile, and polished concrete, but that was mainly because of how much dirt carpets can and do hold. However, I NEVER thought about the chemicals IN the rugs and the glues…

    Thanks you for waking me up.

    No more carpet for me!

    Posted by Darvin | October 28, 2009, 2:45 pm
  10. I think HEPA vacuum cleaners are the best, especially if you are worried about toxins in your carpet. Just make sure you clean your carpet often and you should have no problems.

    Posted by David | November 8, 2009, 8:43 pm
  11. Truly there are a lot of things you can learn online. I didn’t know there are toxic fumes come out of the carpet and special vacuum cleaners to suck it out. This is the great post of the day for me.

    Posted by Janine | November 25, 2009, 11:03 am
  12. Many people are so crazy about their carpets that they have demanded more ways to keep them clean by adding stain master and other chemicals to keep away the stains. Your carpet can become a toxic accumulator, a true biohazard object right in your living room.

    Posted by Heintz | January 9, 2010, 10:52 am
  13. Green carpet cleaning is quite popular now as they are natural, organic and non toxic. Carpet cleaner works by spraying cleaning solutions and drawing out dirt and dust. When you replace those harmful cleaners with the organic ones, you’ll be helping to save the environment and our planet overall.

    Posted by Stan | January 11, 2010, 8:19 am
  14. I removed all the carpets in my home and put down ceramic and hardwood. My son has asthma and he was not getting along with the carpet and the dust. Thanks for the info.

    Posted by Angie | January 22, 2010, 12:15 pm
  15. I agree about the problems with carpeting. I’ve owned carpeting and frankly I prefer other options all together, hardwood floors, tile etc. I would just rather not deal with it at all.

    Posted by Jeff | January 24, 2010, 10:22 am
  16. For me, Hoover vacuum is the best. It’s may expensive but it’s worth investment. It’s not like some cheap vacuum that will broke in2 weeks, this will stay with you at least 6 years. Really good deals

    Posted by Moba | February 2, 2010, 2:07 pm
  17. Hello,
    I was wondering if you have ever heard of animals getting seizures because of new carpet/ glue. We moved into an apartment about a year ago and all of a sudden my cat started having seizures on average one every 10 days or so. He is on Phenobarbital twice a day and still has them.I have had him for 2 years prior to moving in and he has never had one. We didn’t really think anything of it because the vet said sometimes they start at around age 3. Then we recently went on vacation and brought my cat to my dads… it has been 3 weeks and he has not had one, I am leaving him there until we figure this out. I did noticed when we moved in how strong the carpet odor is- but just thought it was that way because there is no padding and the carpet is glued to the wood floor maybe it smelled a little stronger. We called the place who installed it and they said that it was an odor- free glue…I have already changed his food and give him purified water, we do not use fabric softner or anything like that. I wonder if he is ingesting it when he licks himself everyday…Please let me know what you think or if there is somebody you know who might be able to help me.

    Thank you in advance


    Posted by ashley | February 27, 2010, 4:05 pm
  18. I was un-aware that so many things develop in a carpet, I recently purchased a Dyson, it seems to work very well but not sure if it gets up the bacteria left in carpets from every day wear, could anyone please advise me on a hoover that works for this well.

    Posted by Leo | March 8, 2010, 12:01 pm
  19. Does anyone know how I can test my carpeting for toxins?

    Posted by Larraine | March 15, 2010, 8:33 am
  20. My wife suffers alot from sinus problems and when we moved into our new house just over 3 years ago we dicided to try and takle her problem. The first thing I wanted to do was get rid of the carpet but I wasn’t keen on wooden flooring as it made our place less cosy. So I did some looking around and found that we had a couple of companies near by that specilised in making carpets that were made from recycled materials and were designed to be very good at not harbouring dust. We bought our carpets from them and although my wifes sinus problem is not cured I can say that it is about 80% better. If you look around Im sure you will find such suppliers too.

    Posted by Viru | April 19, 2010, 10:19 am
  21. if you keep your carpet clean no matter how cheap your carpet is you will naturaly reduce toxins

    Posted by cheap carpet | April 28, 2010, 4:40 am
  22. I agree that it is better to use natural carpets

    Posted by Clean | May 12, 2010, 5:18 am
  23. Getting a good deal of plush carpet involves a little bit of searching. If you are sure about the kind of floors you want and the deal that best suits your budget then you can get an affordable carpet that provides you years of beauty for a minimal cost.

    Posted by Plush Carpet | July 2, 2010, 8:32 pm
  24. My dog is very sick and coughing constantly while in certain rooms in my house. She was diagnosed with Chronic Bronchitis in May. The weird thing is that the carpet was cleaned in March and I think its the carpet that is irritating her throat and making her worse. The carpet cleaner said it wasn’t what he used as it is non toxic but how do I know when he won’t even tell me the name of it. How do you find out if you have toxins, etc in your house? Who can I call? Desperate in California.

    Posted by Cher | July 29, 2010, 4:06 pm
  25. If you wish to create distinction between different parts of your home, a afghan rug can help define a particular space. Beneath your dining table and chairs is a good solution to help make the dining space stand out from the living space. In fact, you may want to utilize multiple rugs. Use a second one to anchor a seating group in the living area. You will still have great flow, but you’ll also have visual separation.

    Posted by Visadiaries | August 3, 2010, 3:10 am
  26. Its always good to ask the shop assistant if a carpet or rug is likley to cause any respiritry problems prior to purchasing.

    Posted by modern rugs | August 5, 2010, 5:26 am
  27. I agree about the problems with carpeting. I’ve owned carpeting and frankly I prefer other options all together, hardwood floors, tile etc. I would just rather not deal with it at all.

    Posted by rug shampooers | September 11, 2010, 9:38 pm
  28. Whenever purchasing a vacuum you should ALWAYS buy one with a HEPA filter. Most vacuum manufactures make them. Even if they cost a little more (and they usually do) it is more than worth it. Every time you vacuum you’re putting whatever toxins that are in your carpet up into the air where everyone can breathe them in. Not good. A HEPA filter will drastically cut down on this problem.

    Posted by Martha | January 17, 2011, 2:08 am
  29. We also have a carpet at home and it’s a tough job to always remove the little dirts. Carpets do really absorbs dirts fast and if it’s not maintained well it will synusitis and other illnesses.

    Posted by John | January 18, 2011, 10:20 pm
  30. We also have a carpet at home and it’s a tough job to always remove the little dirts. Carpets do really absorbs dirts fast and if it’s not maintained well it will really cause synusitis and other illnesses.

    Posted by John | January 18, 2011, 10:21 pm
  31. Spring is near,every girl wants to be the bride in the special season.They are eager to put on beautiful Wedding Dresses or the Bridal gowns.

    Posted by Simple Wedding Dresses | March 7, 2011, 6:46 pm
  32. I start sneezing when I get into the office. We have carpet. It’s hard to tell if its been clean since it’s a dark color.

    Posted by Juan | March 16, 2011, 10:04 am
  33. They say that to hoover the carpet properly you have to sweep over each area five times. I always do that plus clean and sanitise ours every six months with a carpet shampoo machine. We have two small children and so for me, sanitising is so important, I dont want them rolling about in germs and dirt! There are so many harmfull germs living in our carpets, apparently much more than the toilet. I read that if we make sure we remove our shoes before coming into the home thats the biggest factor in improving cleanliness. Quite shocked about the chemicals in glue etc though.

    Posted by Cleaning supplies | May 11, 2011, 9:23 am
  34. Some people may think this is excessive but we always replace the carpet in our home about every two years. I suppose not everyone can afford to do that but if you can its nice. I really think that its just about impossible to remove all of the toxins and airborne irritants that ‘live’ down inside carpet fibers with vacuum cleaners and steam cleaners.

    Posted by Stainless Steel Cookware | July 30, 2011, 5:33 am
  35. Carpets aren’t very hygenic at all and because you can’t see the dust and dirt you think it’s clean! I really think carpets need to be vacuumed every few days, otherwise the dirt gets ground in!

    Posted by Bob | August 8, 2011, 7:26 am
  36. I enjoy, result in I found exactly what I used to be taking a look for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

    Posted by AquaLusso Cabin | August 9, 2011, 10:16 am
  37. It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the long run and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this submit and if I may just I wish to counsel you few interesting issues or suggestions. Maybe you can write subsequent articles regarding this article. I desire to learn more things approximately it!

    Posted by house painter | August 27, 2011, 5:47 pm
  38. Wow, I haven’t vacuumed one of my carpets in months. Nice wake up call here for going with laminate or hardwoods. Thanks

    Posted by Dan | September 3, 2011, 11:01 pm
  39. With regards to flooring, I’ve come across a wide variety of online resources for suggestions that it’s overwhelming at times. However I really do value the particular post at this site.Carpet tiles Lowes

    Posted by Carpet tiles Lowes | January 15, 2012, 11:54 am
  40. onto the wall with wood trim, or attaching fabric loops in the “old” style for displaying it on a curtain rod

    Posted by sergio | June 11, 2012, 1:49 pm
  41. If you have chosen to decorate your home with rugs, there are some things that you should consider before doing so: If you have small children and pets you will want a rug on your floor because it does cut down on the noise if anyone lives below you. Small children do tend to fall a lot when they are learning how to walk so having a soft cushion of a rug will make them feel more secure because they won�t hurt themselves as badly as they would if they fell on a hardwood floor.

    Posted by Modern rugs | June 29, 2012, 10:09 pm
  42. I’m concerned because the new carpet in my son’s pre-k class has an extremely strong Oder that I noticed immediately when I walked into his classroom. It made it difficult for me to breathe. How do I say something to th school/teacher without sounding like a paranoid nut?

    Posted by Katrina Wilson | February 28, 2013, 5:31 am
  43. Really handy tips, especially given that i can employ them in my business.

    Posted by Brett | April 30, 2013, 10:53 am
  44. want a brand new rug in your home then why not get a shaggy rug follow this link and see what offers they have got in store for you :)

    Posted by Teddingham | August 1, 2013, 1:00 pm
  45. I want to used old carpet on the bottom of a fish pond to help seal the leaking pond water through a sand layer in the pond.
    Do you know of any environmental problems with using carpet like this?


    Posted by Bill Melven | August 5, 2013, 11:38 am


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