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 Hugger.com 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.
Image Source: http://flickr.com/photos/paws_and_toes/2163265916/