You may not be aware that your carpets are highly toxic. In fact, they may be making you ill, or worse yet, it could be slowly killing you and your family. Carpet is one of the main reasons why indoor air is 2-5 times more unhealthy than outdoor air on most days.
What you need to understand is that most modern carpets contain as much as 600 potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and various carcinogens such as artificial dyes, stain and soil repellents, adhesives, and flame retardants, which are listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “Extremely Hazardous Substances.” Hazardous chemicals such as p-formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, dichlorobenzene, benzene, toluene, perchloroethylene, styrene and 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC) which have been known to cause health problems such as eye and respiratory illness, allergies, asthma, nerve damage, hallucinations, and cancer.
Hazardous chemicals such as p-formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, dichlorobenzene, benzene, toluene, perchloroethylene, styrene and 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC) which have been known to cause health problems such as eye and respiratory illness, allergies, asthma, nerve damage, hallucinations, and cancer.
A 1995 study published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine had found that many hundreds of people have felt suddenly ill 1 to 3 days after installing a new carpet in their home or office from breathing in the toxic off-gassing. Some noticed that the carpet appeared to be wet – as if the manufacturer hadn’t finished his job.
The researchers studied mice who became acutely ill after exposure to the new carpet with irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, difficulty breathing and altered nervous system function(showing up as tremors, falling, altered posture, paralysis of legs, stupor, and convulsions). Some of the mice died as a result of exposure to these carpet gases.
Not only are carpets made with highly toxic ingredients, they are also one of the perfect places for harmful microorganisms to hide and grow. If you do not clean and maintain it properly, it can become the perfect reservoir for biological contaminants, such as toxic molds, bacteria, and dust mites.
The very toxins and pathogenic organisms that may be making you and or your family ill because they can cause allergies, asthma, and disease.
Older carpeting is no better!
It has been estimated that older carpets may expose you to hazardous chemicals and harmful pathogens in the indoor air that are 20 to 100 times or more higher in a carpeted room than the outdoors. Over the years, dust, every spill, every pet accident, and every carpet cleaning job will only add to the growth of these harmful pathogens. Also, every time you walk outside and wear your shoes inside, you carry the chemicals and pesticides on your shoes that then settle in your carpet and remain there for years.
Then every time you and your family walks in the home, you will step on the toxins, mold and bacteria colonies that will release millions of volatile compounds, spores, bacterial fragments, and mycotoxins into your indoor air which you will all be breathing on a daily basis. If you have young children who crawl and play on the carpet, their noses and mouths are literally inches from deadly toxins every day thus creating a very dangerous indoor environment and extremely poor air quality called “Sick Building Syndrome.”
In addition to these toxic chemicals, one of the other main reasons why carpet and padding can be so dangerous is because of the fact that it acts like a sponge for water. Almost everyone who has carpet will have accidental spills and urine spots if they have indoor pets. Also, many people will have their carpets steam cleaned periodically which will soak the carpet with water and chemicals.
If you do not dry this moisture from your carpet within 24-48 hours, mold and bacteria will start to grow.
Then you have properties where the carpet is installed in the absolutely worst places such as in bathrooms and basements because they can become breeding grounds for molds. For example, bathrooms that have wall to wall carpet are a terrible idea because they are notorious for high humidity, plumbing leaks, and shower and bath spills. Basement carpeting is also a bad idea because 98% of basements have experienced water damage and they are also notoriously humid.
The #1 rule of mold prevention for carpet installation is “do not install carpeting in areas that are likely to be subject to frequent, high moisture such as the bathroom and basement!”
How do you know if you have mold in your carpet?
Your best tools are your memory, eyes, and nose.
Your memory will be used to remember any incidents in your home over the years where you had accidental spills, pet accidents, water damage etc. You will need to go to these areas on the carpet and use your God-given tools, your eyes, and nose.
The first signs would be to look for visible mold on the carpet. But it would have to be very severe from a bad indoor flood or plumbing leak for you to be able to see the mold growing on the carpet.
If you do not see mold, the next method is the smell test. Does your carpet smell moldy or like mildew? Be careful not to breathe too hard because you don’t want to breathe in too many microorganisms and dust mites. If it does smell, there is a mighty good chance that there you have mold and bacterial growth within the carpet.
After you have done a visual and smell test, you can try to pull up the carpet edges in the corners around the tack strip to see if you can see any mold growth on the bottom of the carpet, on the pad, and or tack strip.
If you have discovered mold, you now need to determine the best course of action to clean, remove or replace the carpet. You can read more about how to do this in my article, “How do I clean and remove mold from my carpet?”
Mold Safe Solutions Conclusion
As you can see, carpet cannot only be dangerous, it can be deadly.
In my opinion, carpet is the absolute most toxic and perfect breeding ground for pathogenic organisms such as toxic mold in your home. If your family is sick and even if they are not, I recommend that if you have the money, tear it out and go with a more all natural flooring alternative.
For example, the ideal flooring for any property would be an all natural wood that has not been treated and the second best would be an all natural stone type tiling. My last recommendation would be a synthetic wood flooring but keep in mind that they are also treated with dangerous chemicals.
If you have carpet that cannot be replaced due to lack of money and or you are renting a property, the key is implementing proper preventive cleaning and water damage techniques. Preventing mold growth is simply the best method to avoid mold.
You can use a good HEPA vacuum 2-3 times a week and when you vacuum, go real slow and let the vacuum do its job. Anytime you have a spill or leak, get on it like a fireman puts out a fire and make sure it is dried up immediately. Last but not least, when it comes time to cleaning the carpet do not use the steam cleaning method because it takes too long to dry and can cause mold growth. Instead, go for a quick dry cleaning method such as Chem-Dry’s carbonating carpet methods.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Moe Bedard is the founder and CEO of Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation. If you need help with a project, please call Mold Safe Solutions at 760-818-6830.