Indoor Matters – Carpet and indoor air quality.

Today, indoor air quality is an important environmental consideration for everyone. Because we spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors, we must do everything possible to improve the air we breathe.

Our indoor environment is impacted by many factors. During the energy crisis of the ’70s, we began to tightly close our workplaces and homes, cutting off fresh ventilation, to conserve energy resources. Cleaning has also become an issue as many families now have both parents working and there’s less time than ever to clean the home. Ventilation and cleanliness play important parts in maintaining good air quality.

Certain interior products do have the potential to impact the indoor air. Cleaning and building materials, ducts transmitting heat and air conditioning, and furnishings can all affect the quality of the air you breathe because they may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.

Specifically, the factors that may impact indoor air quality include:

  • People (exhalation, body odors, diseases)
  • Activities (work such as cleaning, using correction fluids, carbonless paper, pest control products, and personal activities, such as wearing fragrances and smoking)
  • Technology (photocopiers and laser printers)
  • Furnishings (furniture, draperies, floor coverings)
  • Finishes (paint, varnish, vinyl wall coverings)
  • Building materials (caulking compounds, adhesives, wood laminates)
  • Outdoor air quality
  • Inadequate or contaminated air handling units
  • Inadequate cleaning practices

Environmental tobacco smoke and radon, among others, are serious long-term problems. In the short term, renovating and redecorating may be of concern because of emissions from paints, paint strippers, varnishes, wood finishes, caulking and adhesives. Even new carpet gives off emissions, but most are gone in days.

Let’s look at the whole picture. Scientific studies have demonstrated that new carpet is one of the lowest emitters of VOCs in the indoor environment – usually 500 times less than the emission level of some other household products. These low-level VOC emissions, sometimes improperly called off-gassing, along with the harmless odor from new carpet dissipate within the first 48 to 72 hours after installation.

Within the first 24 hours of installation, emissions from new carpet will drop significantly, and with an adequate supply of fresh air, will dissipate to an undetectable level within several days. Just make sure to keep your home well ventilated for the first few days after carpet installation.

Carpet has not posed any health problems for millions of satisfied customers. It’s made primarily of the same innocuous materials found in clothing and other everyday fabrics around your home, such as polyester, nylon and olefin fibers, latex (synthetic rubber), and polypropylene (olefin) fabric backing.

Feel confident about installing new carpet in your home. In fact, if you’re concerned about your home’s indoor air quality, one of the easiest things you can do to improve it is clean – and vacuum – your home as often as possible.

Note: Reproduced, in whole or in part, from and “A Guide to Carpet and Your Indoor Environment” pamphlet.

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