Carpet and Rugs Health HazardAlthough rugs enhance the feeling of warmth and comfort in your home, their use in the home can cause numerous health problems. If we bear in mind that about 70% of homes in America have some form of carpet or rugs, it is clear that this information should not be disregarded.

Carpets are used to hide imperfections in the floor, create a comfortable place for the kids to play, add color to a dull room, create a warm, cozy feeling to an area,. Unfortunately, most carpets contain harmful substances that can negatively affect your health. So if possible, it is best to avoid them completely, or seek healthier alternatives.

Why should you avoid rugs and carpet?

1. Styrene and Phenylcyclohexane-4 (PC-4): 95% of carpets emits styrene and phenylcyclohexane-4 (PC-4), which originate from the manufactured materials.   In fact, rugs are usually made of nylon and polypropylene which over time emit and release the volatile organic compounds (VOC). The smell of new carpets originates from these fumes. Staying in a room with the aroma of new carpets can cause nausea, headache, and respiratory problems.   However, after the disappearance of odor, evaporation continues although not as obvious. It is not only the composition of the carpet, but the adhesives used to install them. Long-term exposure to evaporation may cause serious respiratory problems and diseases of the nervous system. Benzene is one chemical used and has been linked to leukemia, and styrene can cause problems with loss of memory and hearing. Of course, not all carpets are created equal. Some manufacturers use more toxic substances than others. If you buy something new and it has a very strong odor, then you know it was made with something toxic.

2. Flame Retardants, Mothproofing and Stain Protectors:  In order to protect the carpet from destruction, many rugs are treated with flame retardants, mothproofing and stain protectors. PBDE’s, which is one of flame retardants, and has been linked to thyroid problems, issues with the immune system, and weakens brain development. Mothproofing cause toxic reactions and considered highly toxic to infants, because it emits naphthalene.  In addition, pets are exposed to more household toxins than humans are.  This is because they are normally lying on the ground.  Have you ever wondered why there is such a high rate or tumors and cancer in cats and dogs?

3. Mold: Rugs are a good surface for growing mold. Mold is the cause of nasal congestion, irritation to the eyes, skin and breathing difficulties. If you have a spill on your carpet, and if it is not absorbed or does not dry fast enough, there will be mold.

4. Pesticides:  80% of pesticide poisoning comes from the home.   Pesticides and other chemicals are in our environment, and we bring them in our home, especially when we enter the house without taking off our shoes or when our pets come in from the outside. All dirt, including pesticides, remains trapped in the fibers of your carpet where your kids and pets play, and when distributed are forced into the air as dust and we breathe them. Exposure to pesticides can cause less serious problems such as irritation to the skin, eyes, nausea and headaches.  However, excessive pesticide exposure can also cause more severe issues, such as cancer, endocrine and reproductive problems.

How to reduce off-gassing and toxicity of rugs?

No matter how clean your carpet is, it will still be off-gassing especially when it is first purchased. The only option to completely avoid the health hazard is to not purchase the carpet, or to get a carpet made of natural materials such as wool, sisal and hemp.

If you do purchase a regular “Non-Natural” carpet, you still have options to reduce the toxicity:

1. Ventilate during initial off-grassing: When first purchasing or installing a carpet:  Ventilate the room (opening all windows and using fans) where the carpet is and do not stay in the room for at least 72 hours.  An even better idea, if weather conditions permit, is to leave the carpet outside for several days.

2. Remove Odor:

  • Simply sprinkle carpet with baking soda and leave overnight, and then vacuum the carpet.
  • Pour two cups of vinegar in your Steam cleaner and clean carpet without the use of the usual shampoos. Vinegar does not have a pleasant smell, but it kills the other unpleasant smells and is not harmful.

3. Ignite Your Green-Thumb: Get some potted plants. Plants are natural air cleaner and beautiful decoration, and among the best are the Ficus, Aloe Vera, Peace lily and Spider plant.

4. Say No to Glue: Do not use adhesives for carpets. That way you will not be exposed to off-gassing of the adhesive.  If it is wall-to-wall carpeting just have it nailed around the sides, your furniture will prevent the rug from moving.

Your home without rugs may look and feel colder. Most parents would not be thrilled with the idea of their children playing on the floor without a rug. However, when you sum up all of the above, playing on the rug is directly exposing your children and pets to off-gassing and chemicals.  If you have children or pets and want carpet in your home, research your options of natural material rugs before making your purchase.

The issues with the increase of chronic illnesses in humans can also be witnesses in cats and dogs. Have you ever wondered what our pets are doing that may be causing this sharp rise in cancer, tumors, chronic skin problems, and liver, kidney and thyroid issues? Unfortunately, it is not just one thing; it is an accumulation of too many toxic substances. We are exposed to hundreds of different toxic chemicals a day. We can not avoid all toxins in our lives, such as Candles, Air Fresheners, Cleaning Products, Mattresses, Couches, Pesticides and Plastics, to name a few. However, knowing what is toxic and making better choices when it is feasible is a great start to a healthier household.

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