Most people think the hardwood floors are the only way for people with allergies or asthma to be safe in their homes. Frankly, nothing could be farther from the truth. The horror stories about all the extra dust, pollen, and pet & insect dander, not to mention chemicals from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a thing of the past. Thanks to modern carpet technology, proper vacuuming, and a little thing called gravity, those who live with allergies and asthma can enjoy a deep plush or a nice Berber carpet, too.
Yes, carpet does collect dust and other allergens. But, that’s a good thing! As the dust and dander circulate through your home, gravity eventually brings them down. Once they land on your carpet, they are not merely collected, they are trapped. Your carpet’s fibers act like a filter of sorts, keeping most of the particles from getting airborne again. Once the offending allergens are trapped, regular vacuuming using a HEPA filter removes them once and for all.
Carpets made from natural fibers may set off certain allergies, of course. But a lot of the carpet available today is made from harmless material such as polyester, nylon, triexta, and olefin fibers. These materials make up many of today’s clothing and other everyday fabrics, too. A good suggestion is to test your allergies’ or asthma’s reaction to the material by buying a small runner or a piece of clothing before having the carpet installed.
Another bad rap that carpet caught over the years is that it’s a huge source of mold and VOCs, both of which are bad characters to have around when you’re asthmatic. However, mold requires two things to grow: nutrients and moisture. It is true that the dirt and dust trapped by your carpet can provide the necessary nutrients; but, if you keep it dry it is impossible for mold to grow on today’s synthetic carpets.
New studies show that while artificial materials do emit some level of VOCs, carpet is actually one of the lowest emitters. That “new carpet” smell, so obvious immediately after installation, and the low-level VOC emissions are actually harmless and dissipate within 48 to 72 hours after installation. Keeping your windows and doors open speeds up the process, too. For assistance in choosing the best material, check out the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label testing and certification program.
We’ll close this post with a little food for thought from a study published by the Swedish Statistical Central Bureau in the 1990s. Professors Roshan L. Shishoo and Alf Börjesson of the Swedish Institute of Fiber and Polymer Research stated that “while the use of carpet in Sweden had steadily decreased since 1975, the occurrences of allergic reactions in the general population had increased. [They] argue that the removal and decline of carpet usage did not mean improved conditions for allergic patients. On the contrary, they missed the advantages of carpet such as comfort, insulation, and noise reduction”. For more information, see their chart.
So why deprive yourself of all the good benefits of carpet – including allergy and asthma protection.