HOW TO AVOID
CHEMICAL LADEN CARPETS
When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came down with "sick building syndrome" in its Washington, D.C. headquarters back in 1988, the irony was lost on no one. Health problems there erupted after installation of new carpeting, but the cause was never clearly identified. Suspicion hovered around chemical by-product emissions from carpet backing or adhesives, including something called 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PC). The EPA finally replaced the carpet with a different, urethane-backed version, which solved the problem.
In 1992, at her Dedham, Massachusetts lab, Dr. Rosalind Anderson killed a quarter of her test mice with air drawn from carpet samples she had heated. EPA scientists ran similar tests and failed to duplicate Anderson's alarming results. That, says Indiana house-builder John Bower, is because the EPA didn't precisely duplicate Anderson's protocol. Bower and his chemically-sensitive wife, Lynn, have written books on environmental illnesses and healthy house construction.
The carpet industry has its own scientific experts who say there's nothing to worry about, but with as many as 40 chemicals in every new piece of carpet, there's reason for concern. For those with multiple chemical sensitivity, bare ceramic tile seems to be the best answer. Some consumers avoid wall-to-wall floor covering, preferring all-cotton or wool area rugs over wood, ceramic or inert vinyl flooring. All-wool carpeting is available from Carousel Carpet Mills and Helios Carpets, and cotton carpets are made by Dellinger. But even natural fibers collect particulates like lead or hydrocarbons tracked in from outside, and vacuuming, says Bower, doesn't remove microscopic particles, it just blows them around and re-deposits them. "Carpet is a reservoir for this stuff," he says. "Then you put the kids down to play on it because it's soft. But it's a horrible place for kids to play."
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Written by: Judy Waytiuk.
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