Carpeting provides for an affordable and attractive flooring solution in countless homes and buildings. In fact, billions of square feet of carpeting are installed in just the United States each year.
Like many other household products and furnishings, new carpeting can be a source of chemical emissions. Carpets can emit volatile organic compounds or VOCs such as formaldehyde, as do products that accompany carpet installation such as adhesives and padding. Some people report symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; skin irritations; shortness of breath or cough; and fatigue, which they may associate with new carpet installation.
Carpeting can also act as a "sink" for chemical and biological pollutants including pesticides, mold, dust mites and other materials. Anything that is tracked onto, or settles into carpeting can become lodged. VOCs can even be absorbed into many types of carpet fibers.
Vacuuming regularly with a vacuum with a high efficiency filter can help to remove some allergens and particulates.
Individuals purchasing new carpeting should ask for information to help them select lower emitting carpet, padding and adhesives. Before new carpet is installed, consider asking the retailer to unroll and air out the carpet in a clean, well-ventilated area. People may also want to consider leaving the premises during and immediately after carpet installation or schedule the installation when the space is unoccupied.
Opening doors and windows and increasing the amount of fresh air indoors can also help reduce exposure to chemicals released from newly installed carpet. During and after installation, use of window fans and other ventilation systems to exhaust fumes to the outdoors is recommended.