Bad Ad: Hardwood Retailer Gets It Wrong About CarpetEven though there is no scientific link between carpet and increased allergy and asthma symptoms, the perception endures, despite significant research that indicates that in fact, the opposite is true.
In a recent magazine ad, hardwood retailer Lumber Liquidators attempts to exploit the myth that carpet causes allergies. In the ad’s headline, a customer is quoted saying, “We are excited to be rid of the carpet and (hopefully) the allergy symptoms it caused…”
This sort of product-bashing advertising is never a good idea, and when it’s based on information that’s just plain wrong it really scrapes the bottom.
If perception is reality, then the customer who thinks that removing her carpet will lessen her allergies is probably right. If nothing else, the money she had to spend to make the change provided her with a powerful financial incentive for thinking she made the right decision. In medical research, the placebo effect is well known - drug studies on pain medicines have reported false positive responses as high as 60%. As Shakespeare says in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
But the Carpet and Rug Institute and its members (many of whom manufacture hard surface flooring as well as carpet), prefer to deal in facts. And the fact is: clean, dry carpet will not cause allergies or asthma.
In an international literature review article compiled for CRI, board-certified toxicologist Dr. Mitchell Sauerhoff surveyed more than 23 scientific studies and concludes that the negative perceptions and persistent, long-held beliefs on carpet’s alleged negative characteristics are not consistent with current research. In his report, “Carpet, Asthma and Allergies - Myth or Reality,” Dr. Sauerhoff states that:
“Based on the available science, carpet does not cause asthma or allergies and does not increase the incidence or severity of asthma or allergies symptoms. In fact …multiple studies have reported fewer allergy and asthma symptoms associated with carpet.”
For his article, Dr Sauerhoff reviewed studies from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Global Initiative for Asthma, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Center for Environmental Assessment, and American Journal of Public Health, among others.
Other studies show that, while carpet will hold greater amounts of dust and particulate matter, it tends to act like a filter, containing dust and keeping it from becoming airborne into the breathing zone until it can be removed through vacuuming. To help the carpet cleaning process, CRI’s Seal of Approval program for vacuum cleaners tests machines for dust removal and containment, and lists the most effective ones on its website.
In general terms, CRI’s position is that keeping a house allergy-free is not so much about what flooring product you use as how you keep it clean. If the Lumber Liquidators customer wasn’t keeping her carpet (as well as the rest of her house) clean, it’s possible she may have made her allergies worse. I wonder if the retailer told her she would have to be at least as vigilant cleaning her hardwood as she was with her carpet, if not even more?
Choice is good, in flooring and everything else. I hope next time, Lumber Liquidators will choose selling tactics that are based on their own products’ strengths, not on made-up weaknesses in the competition.
Added 4/8/10: Here is a link to my interview with Kemp Harr of FloorDaily on the subject.