Roll Out Toxins: How To Choose Carpet That Will Keep Indoor Air Pure


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You’ve probably read this fact over and over again – indoor air quality is typically five times more toxic than outdoor air quality. There are 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 the huge culprit. The number of toxins in new carpet, padding and adhesives may surprise you.

You’ve heard of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), right? Some of the VOCs that are emitted from new carpets include benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, 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 other chemicals which 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, moth proofing (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!

If you need new carpet, what should you do?

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 non-toxic, 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

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