Monday, June 21, 2010

The Dangers of Carpeting

Wall to wall carpeting has an allure particularly for a family home-it is cozy, insulates, is soft and nice to lay on, offers noise reduction and serves as the perfect play yard for little ones. Unfortunately, there are major draw-backs, particularly when you are concerned with environmental friendliness, and even more urgently with the immediate health of your children and family. As with many lovely things found on the market today, most manufacturers are more concerned with finding the cheapest alternatives than making a safe, healthy & "Green" product.

What is so bad about "regular" carpeting? 'Second to paint, carpeting is the leading cause of indoor air pollution' (sited: Organic Baby: Simple Steps for Healthy Living).

They are dangerous from top to bottom:

• The Carpet fibers are made with synthetic petrochemicals & covered with VOC's (volatile organic compounds)

• The backing material are made of reactive compounds and release toxins in the home

• Carpets are colored with chemical dyes

• Adhesives are toxic chemicals

• Pads are made from prime urethane and hydrocarbons

• Layers are treated with flame retardants (including Boric Acid and boric anhydride). Fire retardants often contain PBDEs which are known to cause damage to thyroid, immune system and brain development functions in humans.

• Stain guards (includes chemicals proven to cause miscarriages, neurological damage & other ailments)

• Include PVC ( Poisonous plastic PVC ) , vinyl & latex materials

Contain toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, styrene, acetone and a host of other chemicals that are known carcinogens and produce fetal abnormalities in test animals. These chemicals also cause hallucinations, nerve damage and respiratory illness in humans.

• That 'new carpet smell' comes from 4-PC, associated with eye, nose and upper respiratory problems. 4-PC is used in the latex backing of 95% of US carpets.

• Mothproofing chemicals contain naphthalene, which is known to produce toxic reactions, especially in newborns.

One should also be aware that if you move into a house with existing carpets, you are taking on all the aforementioned toxins, but you will also be exposed to their dust mites, pesticides, toxins brought in on shoes, pets and more. Carpets can hold eight times their weight in toxin-filled trapped dirt that is well hidden in the fibers and underneath the carpet. The EPA has stated that 80% of human exposure to pesticides occurs indoors. If the house has ever been sprayed for bugs, the chemicals settle in your carpet and remain there for years. If you paint your room or put in new wood or laminating flooring in any part of your house, the carpet is very efficient at holding those toxins for you to inhale long after the work has been completed.

So what are the alternatives?
The good new is, you can get safe wall to wall carpeting.

• Choose 100% untreated (pesticide free) wool or hemp (most are chemically treated, so you will have to ask). Wool is a great choice as it's biodegradable, naturally fire-resistant, hypoallergenic, soft, resists dust mites better than nylon carpets, and purifies the air (even absorbs airborne contaminants like formaldehyde). Hemp is durable and great for high traffic areas. It is also resistant to mold and mildew. Hemp is great in areas where there may be moisture, where wool is not as it takes a long time to dry.

• Make sure that the carpet is installed using nails or staples-no glue.

• Look for the Green Label Plus Certification (In 2004, the Carpet and Rug Institute started the Green Label Plus Certification, which certifies that carpets are free from 13 toxic chemicals.)

• Make sure to remove your shoes and have guests do the same to keep outdoor and other contaminants from getting into your carpet.

If you can not remove the carpet due to time &/or money limitations, you can do the following:
• Steam clean the carpets to kill dust mites and bacteria
• Leave windows open as often as possible.
• Use a HEPA Vacuum cleaner
• Get a great air purifier that removes VOC's (
• Have lots of great plants-many can actually reduce pollutants (Read a list here:

Where to buy safe carpeting? Here are some local (D.C area) places to get safe carpeting:

Want to read more about this? Here are some articles:


Priscilla said...

No authoritative or regulatory body anywhere in the world classifies styrene to be a known cause of human cancer. Moreover, a study conducted by a "blue ribbon" panel of epidemiologists and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (November 2009) reports: "The evidence of human carcinogenicity of styrene is inconsistent and weak. On the basis of the available evidence, one cannot conclude that there is a causal relationship between styrene and any type of human cancer."

Priscilla Briones for the Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC), Arlington, Virginia. SIRC ( is a trade association that represents interests of the North American styrene industry with its mission being the collection, development, analysis and communication of pertinent information on styrene.

The Aardens said...

Thank you for your comment, Priscilla...even though you work directly for the "Styrene information & research center", so it is tough to imagine that your opinion is objective in any way.

It is also said of the RBST/RGBH hormone that "The FDA has said that no significant difference has been shown and no test can now distinguish between milk from rBST treated and untreated cows." We know that is bologna too.

Unfortunately, in the interest of proving your point, styrene is a VOC (volatile organic compound)-and not "organic" in a good way.. Styrene is found in cigarette smoke & is a component of car exhaust, so is a major contributor to photochemical smog and air pollution. Styrene is one of the most active generators of smog in the atmosphere.. It is a Neurotoxin that can harm the brain and central nervous system. It may also interfere with, mimic or block hormones. Styrene can leach into groundwater and contaminate drinking water supplies, so it is regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires regular testing for styrene in public water supplies.

According to a study at the Toxicology Research Laboratory, Health and Environmental Sciences, DOW Chemical Co., Midland, MI (and according to the EPA): Long-term studies (120 weeks) in rats and mice (Ponomarkov and Tomatis, 1978) showed liver, kidney, and stomach lesions for rats (dosed weekly with styrene at 500 mg/kg)...those receiving 285 or 475 mg/kg-day showed reduced growth and increased liver and kidney weights (Wolf et al., 1956). Other subchronic rat feeding studies found LOAELs in the 350-500 mg/kg-day range and NOAELs in the range of 100-400 mg/kg-day.

Though I can't blame SIRC for hiring you to make these claims to defend their "bread & butter", it is of higher importance that we are all aware of this chemical world that we live in. We must try to protect each other as best we can, and be real about these toxic substances whose full health & environmental impact can not yet be fully known.
I wish you all the best and success in spreading actual facts that you can stand behind, as opposed to sending unproven claims to people who are just trying to keep awareness at a higher level.