Carpet and Allergies
Wall-to-wall carpeting is today’s most popular flooring material, and can also be the unhealthiest. A look through a microscope reveals microorganisms covering every strand and fibre. Although many of these organisms represent no danger to human health, there are some – particularly house-dust mites and mold spores – that are major causes of allergies.
Soon after a new carpet has been installed, house-dust mites will be busy making themselves at home. Microorganisms, such as bacteria and molds, can also thrive in carpeting, which provides them with a warm, moist environment with plenty to eat. Dirt will inevitably be walked into the carpet from outside, depositing traces of soil, pollen, animal dander; animal waste products, pesticide residues, mold spores, and so on. All of these can cause allergies. This is a good reason to adopt a “no-shoes” policy in the home, for guests as well as members of the family.
Children are most at risk from soiled carpeting. Adults usually sit on chairs or sofas and are unlikely to come into direct contact with the carpet, and their noses are well off the ground. Children, however, habitually crawl and play on carpeted floors and are much more intimately exposed to any allergens or dirt they may contain. This might explain why infants and children have cough,cold, rashes and other types of allergies more often than adults.
It is foolish to deny that for many people carpet has many advantages in the home, including comfort and insulation against sound and loss of heat. If you do want some carpet in the home, short-pile carpets are easier to keep clean than deep-pile ones, or you may want to consider an anti-allergy carpet. The foam backing of synthetic wall-to-wall carpets, especially those containing polyester, is usually finished with formaldehyde, which will escape into the atmosphere at quite high levels for the first few months after being laid. If formaldehyde is a trigger for your allergic condition, choose carpeting that is backed with hessian or felt, instead of foam. All new foam-backed carpets should be aired well when they are first installed. Keeping the windows open whenever possible will help to prevent formaldehyde gas building up. These steps should help you minimize the allergies caused by carpets.