Carpets provide a soft surface to walk on in home and are great sound dampeners. They also help to keep your room warm and can save on your energy bills. However, a lot of the carpets on the market contain toxic chemicals that can have detrimental effects on your health. These chemicals can stick to dust particles and become airborne when vacuumed or walking on the carpets. This can then be inhaled by children and can cause or exacerbate asthma. Carpets can also trap and retain a variety of pollutants, allergens and toxins such as mold spores, pet dander, pesticides, lead, particle pollution, cockroach allergens and more. This can be especially problematic for children, as they tend to spend more time in the room and place their hands in their mouths frequently.
It is important to clean your Healthy Carpets regularly, and to have them professionally cleaned by a certified green company. This can significantly reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that are released into the air. Some companies even offer organic cleaning options.
Many of the chemicals that are used in conventional carpets and rugs are endocrine disruptors and/or carcinogenic. Some of the most common include styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) in the backing, and phenolic compounds in the dyes used to color them. These can release VOCs, including styrene, methyl styrene and 4-phenyl hexanone which are respiratory irritants at low exposure levels and butadiene, which can react with other chemicals to produce formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. The phthalates found in the vinyl/PVC backing can also release VOCs and endocrine disruptors. Other chemicals to look out for are permethrin pesticide mothproofing, antimicrobials like quaternary ammonium and pyrithione zinc in the face fibers, and stain repellents such as quaternary ammonium or tetramethyl tetrafluorobutanedioic acid (PFAS) in the glues and stain repellent treatments on the face fiber.
Some older studies have linked the use of carpets in offices and schools with poor perceived indoor air quality and adverse health outcomes. This is due to the accumulation of bacteria, viruses and moulds on the floor that then release bad odours into the atmosphere.
However, more recent research shows that if the carpets are properly maintained, they can improve perceived indoor air quality and productivity. They can do this by reducing symptoms of SBS, limiting sick building syndrome and increasing typing performance.
In general, it is best to choose a natural wool carpet with a natural jute backing. This is a great option for heavy residential traffic and offers excellent thermal and acoustic insulation. There are also some synthetic carpets with non-toxic and low VOC adhesives and padding.
Mohawk EcoStrand is one of my favorite brands for sustainable carpets as their solution-dyed nylon carpets have very little to no offgasing. They are also free of metals like lead and antimony. Earth Weave is another great brand for sustainable carpets, their EcoWool carpets are the most sustainable in my opinion. They are 100% undyed and untreated wool and are very durable and soft with a natural jute backing.