While old carpet is frequently considered an allergy trigger, the truth is that all carpets have the potential to cause allergy problems. Once installed, a carpet acts like a filter for anything in the air, trapping particulates and pollutants. Anything carried onto a carpet on shoes or wheels can also become lodged in it. |
New carpets sometimes emit chemical odors that cause headaches, dizziness and other allergy symptoms. Old carpets tend to cause allergy problems because they contain years of dust, dander and dirt buildup that, even with cleaning, has not been completely removed.
One of the most devastating effect carpeting can have on the health of people with respiratory ailments. Carpets hold dust and other allergens. These allergens can cause major problems for people with asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory challenges. Carpeting can also cause breathing problems for infants whose respiratory systems are very sensitive. The elderly can sometimes be negatively impacted by the dust mites and other pests that sometimes make their homes in the carpet. These problems can be exacerbated if the carpet is very old or has not been thoroughly cleaned for some time. Carpets can also hold moisture. Over time this can allow mold to grow and lead to serious health issues. People with asthma may be especially susceptible.
Hydrocarbons from a street or pesticides from a yard can enter the carpet matrix. Outdoors, ultraviolet sunlight eventually breaks down these chemicals, but in the carpet there is nothing to remove them. Frequent and effective vacuuming can reduce the accumulation of such contaminants, but not even hot-water extraction can eliminate them all. VOCs can be adsorbed onto carpet fibers, stored there for an indefinite time, and eventually released back into the air. Thus, carpet that is exposed when an area is painted, for example, can become loaded with VOCs from the curing paint. These VOCs can then add to the overall pollutant level in the space for an extended period of time, long after the paint has cured and stabilized. Wool fibers appear to have an even greater capacity than synthetics for trapping VOCs, especially formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides. Some wool-industry-sponsored research suggests that such substances are chemically bonded to the wool and will not be released, but such claims haven't been verified.
Carpets are also an ideal environment for dust mites, which consume flakes of dead human skin and leave highly allergenic excrement. Wet carpet is an ideal breeding ground for another allergen: mold and mildew. In fact, most experts recommend that any carpet that has been wet for over 24 hours be removed, because there is no effective way to eliminate the mildew growth. Some aggressive cleaning products can themselves leave toxic residues in carpet, especially if they are improperly used.
A rash of alleged health problems with carpet have yet to be properly explained, suggesting that all carpets, and especially the less expensive synthetics, should be used with great caution. Risks
Continued exposure to old carpet may cause prolonged allergic reactions. While these reactions may be manageable at first, the intensity of the reactions may increase over time. Reactions to allergens in carpet include runny nose, sneezing, sniffling, stuffy nose, itching of the nose and eyes and ear popping.
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