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Do Your Part: Make a healthy carpet selection

I recently received an e-mail from a reader asking an important question about carpets.

She wrote, “I dread it but I need to think about either cleaning all of my old carpets or putting new carpet in, and want to be careful about my choice. I want to avoid breathing in toxic fumes. Suggestions?”

You bet!

These days, we are inundated with ads from retailers selling rugs and carpets. Do your part while shopping for the best deal on carpet and make sure it’s also the healthiest choice for your indoor environment.

Carpet and the adhesives used to install it can be a leading source of indoor air pollution. And it’s not just about the kind you choose, but also how you clean it.

Ninety percent of the carpet sold today is made up of synthetic fibers such as nylon, polypropylene and polyester, which are created from chemical processes using oil and natural gas.

These types of carpeting release volatile organic compounds – or VOCs – into the air we breathe. VOCs are known health hazards that can cause everything from asthma to cancer. The same is true for many types of adhesives used during carpet installation.

Fortunately there are more choices than ever when it comes to shopping for an eco-friendly carpet and adhesives.

You can find carpets made from all kinds of renewable sources like wool, jute, and seagrass. Look for ones that have not been treated with any pesticides, mildewcides or stain repellents, which are all chemicals that can be hazardous to your health.

You can also find synthetic fiber carpets and adhesives that are tested to emit the lowest levels of VOCs. These products will carry the “Green Label” logo from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), a nonprofit trade association.

When it’s time to clean your carpet, the best advice is to know your cleaner. Whether you do it yourself or hire a service, understand what’s being used on your carpet. This is especially true if you have children crawling on the floor.

You can find a number of eco-friendly carpet cleaners and cleaning products that will make your job a bit easier. You also want to make sure that rugs cleaned using water dry in just a few hours to prevent mold from growing in the carpets or pad. Mold is a common cause of allergies and asthma attacks and if it gets into your carpet it’s hard to remove.

And when it’s time to dispose of the carpet in your home, there are recycling options. Visit CarpetRecovery.org to find a recycler near you.

Some charities will also accept donations of gently used carpet. Just be sure to call first.

Remember, shopping for carpet shouldn’t be just about what looks good and feels good. Your choice should also include how healthy it is for you, your family and our planet.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist, and host of DoYourPart.com, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to terri@doyourpart.com.


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