A couple of weeks ago I was giving a presentation on eco-friendly finish materials for residential use – covering products from flooring (including carpet) to counter tops. A point I always try to make is that these products aren’t just easier on the environment, but they are healthier for us as well. We’re not living with and breathing all of the chemicals and toxins that are present in many building materials.
During the Q&A, I was asked “If you could make one change in an older home to make it healthier, what would it be?” Without even hesitating, I said replace the carpet. I hadn’t realized how strongly I felt about this until then. Carpet can be nasty, especially if it’s older. Now before I get the carpet lobby coming after me, let me qualify this…not ALL carpet is nasty. Fortunately most carpet manufacturers now offer natural fiber carpets made from hemp or wool. They don’t off-gas, they’re durable, stain-resistant and feel good. Yes they may be a bit more expensive than carpet made from nylon or polyester, but in my opinion, the benefits FAR outweigh the additional cost. If you want to read a good article on carpet off-gassing, take a look at this one.
Why am I so adamant about carpet in older homes? It’s not still releasing toxins is it? The truth is, we don’t know. If you ask the carpet companies they will tell you the off-gassing isn’t a problem at all ,ever. If you ask an environmentalist or many health providers they will say carpets off-gas for many years, long after the smell has dissipated. But off-gassing is only part of the picture. Carpets, especially those that have been around awhile, contain all sorts of other nasty things like dirt, dust mites and other toxins that have been tracked in by us and our pets. This is of even more concern if you have small children. They spend a lot of time close to the floor. Their exposure is much greater.
There are so many good beautiful and eco-friendly flooring options available, take a good look before just replacing carpet with carpet. If you really want or need carpet, choose one made of wool or other natural fiber, you won’t be sorry. And your lungs will thank you.