Friday, June 8, 2012

Carpet Concerns

Since I've recently written about vinyl flooring, it seems appropriate to give equal time to some of the negative health effects associated with carpeting. Although some carpets are more problematic than others, none are a truly healthy flooring choice. Carpets have one set of problems when they're new and another set of problems when they've been around a while.

Most of the problems associated with new carpets are related to the chemicals used to manufacture them. In the book Staying Well in a Toxic World, author Lynn Lawson reports on an immunologist who was told by a major carpet manufacturer that there were “at least a thousand” chemicals used in synthetic carpeting. The padding and adhesives can also be sources of toxic emissions.

Carpet chemicals can cause a wide range of health problems. An article in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients entitled Carpet Politics and Alternatives reported on studies in which a toxicologist exposed mice to carpet samples. The mice suffered neuromuscular, pulmonary, and sensory effects, and many of them died. Autopsies showed that the liver, brain, and kidneys had been affected.

Carpet manufacturers claim that their products have become less toxic since that time. Unfortunately, however, even if a truly non-toxic carpet were to be manufactured, it wouldn't remain that way for long once it was in use. Carpets act like a sponge, absorbing pollutants from the environment. An article reporting on tests of home carpeting noted that environmental engineer John Roberts found carpet dust to contain high levels of pesticides, heavy metals, and many other harmful chemicals. He observed that a typical carpet contains such high levels of toxic chemicals that it would trigger an environmental clean-up if found outdoors. Any cleaning or personal care product used in or brought into a building containing carpet has the potential to settle there and to be re-released when the carpet is disturbed. Easily cleaned flooring made of natural materials like wood, bamboo, or stone is generally the healthiest flooring choice.

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