Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, head of AllergicMedicine at the University of Virginia Medical School, estimates that somewhere between 500,000 and a million hospital visits are made each year by patients allergic to biocontaminants such as fungi, mites, and bacteria.
The average person spends 90% of their time indoors. Worse, recently the EPA put into the Congressional Record the fact that indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air. Americans areliterally giving themselves and their children lifelong allergies with our disgusting indoor air. Every time you walk into your house, you bring lots of pollutants in with you--pollens, chemicals, soil,tar, dirt, car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and thousands of other things. Then you shut the door, and these pollutants have nowhere to go except where gravity takes them--into your carpet!
Dr. Michael Berry of the EPA states that "Carpeting and fabrics not cleaned and properly maintained have the potential to cause a variety of health problems inside the building environment."
Carpet cleanliness can affect indoor air quality. Indoor air quality, a growing government and customer concern, is forcing contract cleaners o focus on health as well as appearance.
When properly maintained,carpet can improve indoor air quality, acting as a filter to hold soil, debris and other contaminants, and preventing them from becoming airborne.
Regular vacuuming helps keep indoor air cleaner and extends carpet life. Vacuums have improved via stronger and better suction and use of filters that trap dirt down to 0.3 micron (a micron is one-millionth of a meter). It is equally important to regularly clean or replace vacuum filters to ensure efficiency.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also recognizes the effect of regular carpet cleaning on indoor air. Extraction cleaning is the most effective way to remove soil. Routine Carpet Maintenance Includes:
Controlling the flow of dirt with entry mats
Vacuuming with proper filtration and microfilter bags
Immediate spot removal
Regularly scheduled wet cleaning or extraction for total soil removal.
*Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Over the last several years, questions have been raised about the potential role of carpet in the expression of various human health effects. These have fallen into two general areas-
1. exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from new carpet.
2. exposure to bioaerosols from older carpet
When the earliest allegations of adverse health effects were made on exposure to new carpet in the early 1980s, there was relatively little data available on VOCs. Since that time, the technology for acquiring VOC emissions has matured and has been applied extensively to carpet and a number of other interior furnishing products. The specific VOCs from a variety of these products have been identified, and the resultant risk assessments indicate that significant health effects are not expected from these exposures.
Note that other materials typically used with carpet,such as pad or adhesives for commercial installations, will contribute some VOCs to the air.
If low-VOC-emitting products are desired, look for the Carpet & Rug Institute IAQ testing label.
Today, we know that new carpet is one of the lowest-VOC-emitting products used in the indoor environment.Some carpets do have character- istic odors that some people have found objectionable; however, the carpet industry has actively worked over the last few years to dramatically reduce odors from new carpet.
The Dust Mite
A dust mite; pictured here is one of the two million dust mites that infest the average home. They hide in your carpet, upholstery, drapes, mattress and pillows. Mites can double in numbers in less than 10 hours, and produce between 10 and 20 pieces of feces per day. That is 100,000 dead bodies, and 30 million pieces of feces added to your home every day. Microscopic mite feces and corpses are small enough to be airborne and get into your lungs. Eighty percent of the 11 million Americans who suffer from allergies are allergic to airborne mite refuse. How bad is it? Well, one tenth of the weight of a 2-year-old pillow is dust mite feces. Your home is a dust mite nursery, and you could be swimming in their unhealthy mire.
The potential health impact of bio aerosols from older carpets is a newer issue for the carpet industry and is discussed in detail below.
For older carpet, the area of concern is airborne suspension of irritants or allergenic material that either grows or accumulates in the carpet over time. With regard to the growth of microorganisms in carpet, we know that this does not occur to any significant extent at a relative humidity below 65% or in the absence of water leaks. In situations where humidity is high or water has intruded into the building, the potential for mold growth is greater regardless of flooring material. While biological debris can accumulate in carpet, it has been argued that carpet may actually be a benefit, since it traps and holds soils and dusts.
Note that these soils are either tracked or blown into the building regardless of flooring type. Obviously, it becomes necessary to routinely remove this debris from the carpet via vacuum cleaning and periodic deep cleaning. Attempts to generate more comprehensive data regarding the precise role of carpet with respect to airborne particulates are under way; however, the studies to date indicate dust particle levels over carpets and hard surface flooring are closely related to outdoor levels of particles rather than flooring type.
Resource DuPont 2000