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 New Carpet
  Carpet can have hundreds of different chemicals including formaldehyde, 4-phenylcylohexene, styrene, toluene, benzene, xylene, pesticides and anti-fungicides. According to Dr. Anderson of Anderson Laboratories, a laboratory that uses mice to test carpet for toxicity, carpet may contain up to 200 different chemicals and produce toxic effects including flu-like symptoms, fatigue, headaches memory loss and difficulty concentrating up to 16 weeks after exposure14.

Carpet was in the media spotlight in 1988 when approximately 125 employees at the EPAís headquarters became ill after new carpet was installed. The chemical 4-PC, found in the latex backing, was thought to be responsible. The EPA replaced the carpeting with carpet that did not contain 4-PC but some employees continued to experience health problems. As a result, in 1992 the Carpet and Rug Institute, a trade association that represents about 95% of the carpet industry, formed the Green-Tag Program15. You will find Green-Tag stickers on new carpet today.

When the Green-Tag program was created, it was criticized because it does not test for all of the toxic chemicals in carpet. According to the 1992 initiative, only one sample from an entire product line needed to be tested once per year. The attorney generals in several states investigated and reported that ďthere is insufficient scientific basis to set standards for carpet emission or make safety claims about carpets.Ē

In 2004, the Green-Tag program was modified. The Green Label Plus, as it is now called, includes testing for thirteen chemicals. It does not ban the use of these chemicals, it merely puts limits on the levels of emissions.16,17 These include formaldehyde, Benzene, Styrene, and 4-PC. The ultimate test, that performed using mice, is not part of the Green-Tag testing program.  Donít count on the Green Label to mean a carpet is non-toxic or safe. It may just be an improvement over carpets without the label.

People have trouble remembering all the different toxic ingredients in carpet but they tend to remember formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has been linked to an increase in asthma and allergies, especially in kids. Chronic exposure in some instances is reported to have lead to permanent chemical sensitivity and is a probable human carcinogen. Formaldehyde is also well know for itís prevalence in mobile homes, trailer and RVís.

The carpet industry realized that it would be good PR to reduce the amount of formaldehyde in carpet. Thus some carpets claim not to have formaldehyde in them anymore. To determine if this is true requires obtaining a copy of the testing report. The Green Label allows for formaldehyde to be present.

Formaldehyde is still the number one chemical used in carpet padding. Formaldehyde is in the glue that holds the different color scraps of carpet padding foam together. There is more formaldehyde in carpet padding than was in the older types of carpets.

Safer Carpeting Solutions
  • Formaldehyde emission from carpet padding can be worse than carpeting. Chose a carpet padding that does not contain formaldehyde. Multi-colored carpet padding contains formaldehyde. Also choose a padding that does not contain PVC (vinyl) or styrene-butadiene rubber backing. Jute and felt seem to currently be the only alternatives.
  • If you can afford it, chose natural and organic, 100% wool carpet. Lying on non-treated organic carpet (one without insecticides, anti-microbials, moth-proofing, or stain treatments) is a wonderful experience. Do not put wool carpets in kitchens, bathrooms or high areas of moisture. Untreated wool is not resilient to mold growth if it gets wet.
  • Choose the carpet with the least odor. If the sample in the store smells even a little then itís probably not a good choice. Bring it home and put it in the sun. Odors are stronger from carpeting in direct sunlight.
  • Look for a carpet brand that has been lab-tested for health effects by mice by Anderson Laboratories (ASTM E 981) and rated superior to other carpets tested.
  • Consider hard wood flooring, tile or manolium, a natural version of linoleum, instead of carpet. Replacing carpet with hard surfaces improves air quality in ways in addition to reducing chemicals. Hard surfaces don't trap dust like carpet and are easier to clean.
  • Roll carpeting and carpet padding out in the sun to air out prior to installing it.
  • If you have new carpet that stinks and you canít remove it apply AMF Carpet Guard that seals and creates an odor barrier.
  • In office buildings, use low-VOC, ďgreenĒ carpet glue.
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Revised: July 05, 2017.

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