Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Truth About Carpet and Formaldehyde

Truth About Carpet and Formaldehyde

Second Most Popular Post on CRI Blog: Carpet and Formaldehyde: Debunking Urban Legends

Here is the second in my series of blog “top CRI blog posts”. Last time, in Asthma, Allergies, Carpet and Flooring: Advice From Carpet Cleaner, I spotlighted the all-time most popular article on the CRIblog, a synposis of an article written by Indiana-based carpet cleaner David Gruttadaurio called  Great Carpet Advice for Asthma/Allergy Sufferers.

The #2 spot on the CRI blog hit parade goes to an article titled, Carpet and Formaldehyde: Debunking Urban Legends. It’s my response to an article Is Your House Making You Sick? that bashes carpet for being a source of formaldehyde. The original article, which still appears on a website called The Nest, had been sent to me by several different people who were extremely put out by the article’s inaccuracy and just plain ignorance. Worse yet, the story had been picked up by a wire service and appeared in newspapers around the country. Here’s what it said about carpet:

“Beware: Chemicals in your carpets: Carpets and carpet cushions can contain VOC’s and emit formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas. According to the EPA, formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; and severe allergic reactions.

Take care: Look for carpets made from natural fibers with little or no chemical treatment. Shaw Floors sells a variety of eco-friendly colors and styles for both wall-to-wall and area carpeting. Also, purchase carpets with natural fiber backing that’s attached with less-toxic adhesives.”

Whenever I mention the enormous amount of misinformation about carpet and formaldehyde flooding the internet today, my colleagues from the manufacturing side of the carpet industry look at me with disbelief. “But that’s a non-issue,” the director of operations of one major carpet manufacturer said to me. “We haven’t used formaldehyde in more than forty years.”

In spite of that fact, and in spite of the carpet industry’s internationally-recognized Green Label Plus Standard for Indoor Air Quality that establishes carpet as a low-VOC product, the wave of misinformation continues.

You can read my response to the carpet-bashing article here. It gives the history of the development of the Green Label Plus standards for carpet and adhesives and the Green Label standard for cushion. It points out that GLP carpets and adhesives are recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States’ Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), green building program where they earn project credit. It mentions that the State of California accepts GLP-certified carpet for use in their High-Performance Schools, that GLP carpet is also accepted by the American Lung Association’s Health House program, and that GL cushion is recognized by the EPA, state of California, and many other regulating bodies.

It links to the thousands of GLP-certified residential and commercial carpets, carpet adhesives, and Green Label-certified carpet cushions listed on the CRI website and points readers to the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Technical Bulletin on carpet and formaldehyde.

Finally, the second most widely-read post on the CRI blog challenges the intelligence of the author who said carpet was a major source of formaldehyde emissions. Touché!

How many of you see information on the internet and elsewhere linking carpet with formaldehyde?

Why do you think that is, and how do you combat it? I’d like to have your ideas.  



Anonymous said...

I work for a flooring store which sells carpet and all hard surface products, and sometimes there is nothing you can say. For whatever reason, people seem to think whoever says that 'carpet is bad for you', say it with all the authority of heaven. I've had customers say that their doctor told them to get rid of their carpet and get hardwood in their bedrooms. To me that is just asking for a colony of 'dust bunnies' to come and take up residence under your beds and dressers! Thanks for the blog, I send it out on our Facebook account and many links to CRI are on our website!
Paul Thompson

Jan A said...

I have a question--I am about to purchase new carpeting. I have severe asthma and odors trigger attacks. The carpet company said that most new carpet odors come from the padding, not the carpet itself. They are offering to sell me a "green" padding that doesn't contain formaldehyde. Is the "green" padding any good, and is it less odorous than regular carpet?

Bethany Richmond said...

Thanks, Paul, glad you can use the blog. I mnay have some more interesting info about carpet and formaldehyde soon. Bethany

Bethany Richmond said...

Hi Jan,
Thanks for your comment. I have asthma too, and I know how bothersome some strong odors can be. I have carpet and pad in my house and I do fine. The good news is, carpet, especially carpets that carry the Green Label Plus designation, are tested and certified to be extremely low-VOC products. The odors associated with new carpet are mild, but if you are one of the few people who might react to them, make sure your installers open a window or two and provide good ventilation during the installation process and the odors will likely be entirely gone for good in 48 hours or less. As for formaldehyde, no cushion manufacturer that we know of uses formaldehyde in their manufacturing process. Same goes for carpet –
Does this answer your question? I have more information if you want to contact me at brichmond@carpet-rug,org. I hope you enjoy your new carpet. Bethany

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