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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Your carpets may make you sick

There are lots of potential health hazards in the typical home and you are likely standing on one as soon as you enter – the carpeting. More and more people are discovering that they are getting sick because of their carpets. I'm not sure whether this is another modern phenomena that portends a change in humans or the result of changes in the home environment caused by the manufacture, use and care of the carpeting, but here are the leading candidates for the reasons that your carpeting may be making you sick.

The carpet adhesives necessary to manufacture carpet may be a primary reason that some people react negatively to new carpeting. Those adhesives hold the carpet fibers together and attach the backing to the fiber layer. There may also be adhesives used to manufacture the carpet pad. It appears that some people become ill when exposed to these adhesives or actually to the gases that vent off from the adhesives. I’ve actually witnessed a chemically sensitive person become ill just by walking into a room with fresh carpeting. There also may be adhesives used to install certain types of carpet (normally the indoor-outdoor type), which can exacerbate the issues. If you are one of the people who is sensitive to these chemicals, you may be better off avoiding a room with newly installed carpeting until it is free of fumes from the adhesives. That can take quite a few weeks for new carpeting.

Carpeting tends to get very dirty. If you don't believe that, rent a carpet cleaning machine and look at the waste water, once you’re done cleaning. It will be black as coal. That dirt was in your house, in your carpet -- and you were touching it, breathing it and becoming dirty as a result of living with it. Mixed in with the dirt are all of the pet dander, germs and dust mites and other nasty things that lurk in your carpets. If you’ve ever stripped old carpeting off a floor, you know how much dirt is left under the carpeting and pad. Gross!

Everything that you and other family members (including pets) come into contact with ends up in your carpeting. So do particulates brought in with air pollution, as well as outdoor pollens. In short, your carpeting is a microcosm of your outdoor environment. If you have dust allergies or asthma, this might be reason alone for eliminating carpets. If you are going to keep them, make sure to vacuum them often, using a vacuum that actually works rather than redistributing dirt all over your house. The vacuum should have a good HEPA filter, as well as good suction. And change the bag often, so that it doesn’t become overfilled, clogged and ineffective.

The final problem with carpeting concerns cleaning it. Some people reportedly become ill when exposed to the chemicals used for cleaning carpets. Even the so-called stream carpet cleaning system use some chemicals in the water/steam mix. There have been numerous published scientific reports that have addressed this issue. If you are one of these sensitive persons, you should avoid being in situations where you have to breath the air/fumes of newly cleaned carpeting. Even carpets that have dried from the cleaning may have a dried chemical residue on them which can kick up as you walk across the carpet or if you happen to sit or lie on the carpet.

More and more, people are opting for wood floors, which are easier to keep clean and which don’t have the gassing and cleaning chemicals issues. It is ironic in most of the older homes that beautiful hardwood floors were immediately covered over with wall-to-wall carpets. Get rid of the carpet and get back to the beauty of wood (or laminate, which at least looks a lot like wood). Other flooring alternative include tile, linoleum (although that will introduce the adhesive issue again) and stone (marble is the most widely used) or perhaps stamped concrete (you can literally make your floors look like almost any material using the stamped concrete approach).

The important thing is to think about whether the carpeting in your house may be the culprit in the continuing saga of illnesses in your home. Your doctor should be able to do tests to determine if you are in fact being poisoned by your carpets.

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