As we continue to look at our schools with an eye to protecting our children's health, another place to look is at our feet. We don't think about it much, but carpets are a magnet for anything that has been in the air or on our shoes. And it's a magnet that is also hard to clean completely. |
Carpet and carpet installation materials can contain up to 120 chemicals, some of which are quite dangerous. For example, many glues used in the installation of carpeting contain formaldehyde as a main ingredient.
Many of the hazards associated with carpets come from the air. Pesticides and chemicals in the air settle eventually in the carpet. Dirt and pesticides are also tracked in on the shoes of students and staff. Additional problems such as mold can occur under carpets when moisture problems are not addressed. And carpet is a great home for dust mites, a powerful allergen and asthma trigger. Even the chemicals used to clean the carpets cannot be completely removed after a shampooing. All this adds up to a potential for health problems for children and staff.
If your school has carpeting, there are things you can do to reduce health problems associated with carpets. And you also may want to think about ways you can reduce the potential for problems by removing carpets when that is possible or when you renovate.
Here are some tips for reducing the threats from carpets:
USE MATS. Make sure there are long mats at the building entrances so that dirt and other potential hazards are left at the front door and not tracked inside onto carpets. USE NON-TOXIC SHAMPOOS. Safe and effective, non-toxic alternatives do exist. USE A "HEPA" VACUUM. These vacuums have superior suction power and significantly reduce recycling small dust. Also, if possible, go over the carpeted area more than once to increase what is taken up in the vacuum. ADDRESS MOISTURE PROBLEMS QUICKLY. In dealing with moisture problems and spills when they occur you can ensure that mold does not develop. Set stains are harder to get up and require using more cleaning supplies than a fresh spill, so don't delay action. CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES WHEN REMODELING. There are lots of flooring choices that are not only easier to care for, but are also better for the environment. LAY CARPETING IN THE SUMMER. If you must lay new carpets, do it in the summer so that it has a chance to air out for as long as possible before students are in the building again. If you must install during the school year, try to air out the carpet before you install it and use less toxic glues. Installing untreated, natural fiber carpets will also present fewer long term problems to the health of students and staff. Some Solutions What can you do to create a more healthful home environment for yourself, your children and your pets?
Consider alternatives to carpeting, such as untreated hardwood floors, tile and inert vinyl Buy carpeting made of sustainable fibers, such as cotton, sisal and wool Select carpeting with Green Label Plus Certification Have the carpeting aired out before installation Use tacks, not adhesives Keep your home well ventilated Get rid of moist carpeting immediately to prevent mold Take off shoes worn outside and leave them by the door These little adjustments in your daily life to keep your family and the planet healthy add up to make a big difference. There are hundreds of small but powerful green actions you can take.
For more helpful information about carpet, see links below:
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