It may do wonders for your decor. It may feel delicious on your bare feet. It's a soft place for children at play and it reduces noise. Carpeting can look and feel great in your home. But hidden in the plush, saxony or berber are significant dangers to you and your family. |
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.
New Carpet New carpet emits up to 40 different chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) for up to a full year after installation. VOCs are also released from carpet padding and installation products, such as carpet adhesive and seam sealant. These include 4-PC, PVC, mothproofing chemicals, stain repellents and flame retardants.
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 which are known to cause damage to thyroid, immune system and brain development functions in humans.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), hundreds of new carpet purchasers routinely complain of symptoms ranging from headaches to fatigue and allergic reactions. Carpet installers have reported a variety of aches and gastrointestinal problems. Even more alarming are results of tests on laboratory rats, which experienced tremors, hemorrhaging and paralysis after exposure to carpet fumes. Children and pets are particularly vulnerable to adverse effects because they inhale carpet fumes at such close range.
Older Carpet Older carpet presents even more serious health risks, largely because it contains chemicals now banned from the market. Over the years, it also accumulates other toxins, such as cigarette smoke, paint fumes and pesticides tracked in on shoes. In fact, a study conducted by the EPA in 1996 determined that levels of insecticides, pesticides and fungicides were 10 to 100 times higher in carpeting than outdoors.
Then there are dust mites and mildew, both of which are allergens.
Though an vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter can help reduce pollutants trapped in carpet, an inefficient vacuum cleaner does little more than blow them around.
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