You’ve probably read this fact over and over again – indoor air quality is typically five times more toxic than outdoor air quality. There is an abundance of reasons why this is true, but there is one cause that many people never even consider – the carpet in your home.

Older carpet catches all sorts of pollutants that get tracked indoors on the bottom of your shoes. However, new carpet is a huge culprit. The number of toxins in new carpet, padding, and adhesives may surprise you.

VOCs in New Carpets

You’ve heard of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), right? Some of the VOCs that are emitted from new carpets include benzene, formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, acetone, styrene, and toluene

Lounge carpet
Lounge carpet. Image courtesy of Paul Mullett

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs cause minor problems like eye, nose, and throat irritation, frequent headaches, and nausea as well as more severe health issues like liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage. Some VOCs have also been shown to cause cancer in animals, and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Most new carpets also contain known carcinogens, such as p-Dichlorobenzene, in addition to other chemicals that have been shown to cause hallucinations, nerve damage, and respiratory illness. On top of that, carpets are often treated with more toxic compounds during production, which may include artificial dyes, brighteners, flame retardants, mothproofing (which is neurotoxic), and stain repellent.

You also need to take a look at the padding used under the carpet, which usually contains flame retardants that are also toxic. Talk about a toxin overload!

How Do You Find a Safe Carpet?

Many people look for the Green Label Plus logo, which can assure you the carpet emits lower levels of VOCs. Unfortunately, even though the carpet itself emits lower levels, you need to dig deeper and look at the backing on these carpets.

Many of them have an adhesive in the backing that’s made from over 20% styrene and more than 70% butadiene (dubbed SBR). The Green Label Plus certification also does not require that the carpet be made from natural materials. Carpets made from synthetic ingredients like nylon, polypropylene, and polyester may also qualify for this certification, so be aware of its limitations.

Earth Weave Carpet Mills is an alternative to consider. This company offers nontoxic, all-natural carpet and padding. Bio-Floor, their product, is produced with undyed, untreated wool along with cotton, hemp, jute, and natural rubber. The product is also made in North America.

Next time you’re purchasing new carpet for your home, be sure to do your research and choose one that will help keep the air in your home pure.

Feature image courtesy of Toni Verdú Carbó

By Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.