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Article

Truth or Myth: Carpet Aggravates Allergies

When the IICRC surveyed 1,155 U.S. homeowners about their sentiments toward home health and flooring, it found that 75 percent believed carpet to be the least effective floor covering when it comes to reducing conditions that aggravate allergies. [Note: Ad or content links featured on this page are not necessarily affiliated with IICRC (The cleantrust) and should not be considered a recommendation or endorsement by IICRC (The cleantrust)].

 

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According to IICRC’s “You’d Be Floored” survey, one-third (33 percent) of respondents said that someone in their household suffers from indoor allergies. With allergy season fast approaching, the IICRC addresses a common misperception about carpet and allergies. Is the common belief that carpet aggravates allergies a fact or fiction?

“Homeowners, specifically, are often misled into believing that carpet itself aggravates allergies,” said IICRC technical advisor Jeff Bishop.

 

Soiled CarpetAffects Indoor Air Quality

According to the IICRC technical advisor Jeff Bishop: "Carpet often actually improves indoor environmental quality by trapping and holding particles, dust and other soils until routine maintenance and cleaning can remove them. However, if neglected, carpet, like any container, can become filled to the extent that it can hold no more. At that point - when the surface is agitated - it will become a releasing source for particles and dusts that can cause respiratory irritation or trigger allergies, just as can hard surface flooring when soils are allowed to build up."

According to Dr. Andrea Ferro, in a 2001 report from Stanford University: 

"The air is filled with tiny particles called particulate matter (PM), which has been linked with allergies, asthma, and heart and lung disease. By examining PM that is 'kicked up' or re-suspended by indoor human activity, [we can] find ways to reduce this pollution ...

 

"Next to second-hand cigarette smoke and cooking emissions, house dust re-suspended by indoor human activity is the largest source of PM that we breathe.

"Surprisingly, house dust contains many pollutants, including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), molds, allergens, and lead and other heavy metals. These pollutants are either tracked in with shoes, infiltrated through doors, windows and cracks, or are generated indoors. They then collect on surfaces and are re-suspended with human activity.

"... a variety of indoor human activities re-suspend high concentrations of PM between one and 10 um (microns) in diameter within the breathing zone.

"... studies have shown that PM concentrations measured by a personal monitor (worn on the body) are consistently higher than those measured by a stationary indoor monitor. This phenomenon is called the 'personal cloud.'

"...[Dr. Ferro] set up the filter samplers and real-time instruments in stationary locations outdoors and indoors at a home in Redwood City, California. All instruments were located at breathing height. [Ferro] carried a third identical set of instruments at breathing height while she performed a variety of activities such as dusting, vacuuming, walking, dancing, and folding clothes.

"Using the real-time instruments, [Ferro] found that carpets increased concentrations of PM [significantly] ... over bare floor. Carpets that had not been vacuumed for several weeks increased concentrations by more than two times over carpets that had been vacuumed the previous week. Also, the more vigorous activities re-suspended the highest concentrations of PM. For example, dancing on a carpet increased concentrations more than walking on a carpet. Activities where dust reservoirs were disturbed, such as dry dusting, folding clothes and blankets, and making a bed, released the highest concentrations. Surprisingly, just walking around and sitting on furniture increased concentrations as much as vacuuming."

 

Bishop explains that scientific studies demonstrate that often just the opposite is true: “In addition to insulating, absorbing sound, and preventing slips and falls and associated injuries, carpet often actually traps airborne allergens that can easily be vacuumed out, whereas other flooring may allow irritants to be stirred up by normal traffic or sweeping and released into the breathing zone,” said Bishop. “It is airborne dust, not carpet, which is the culprit that triggers allergies.”

 

The “You’d Be Floored” survey also revealed that a majority - eight out of 10 U.S. homeowners (81 percent) - feel that their family’s health is directly related to the cleanliness of their floors. Among households with allergy sufferers, half (50 percent) agree that the type of flooring in the home can contribute to allergic reactions.

Additionally, three out of four homeowners surveyed (77 percent) vacuum their floors at least once per week. Those with children are more likely to vacuum several times per week - 47 percent among those with children and 32 percent among those without. When it comes to restorative cleaning, nearly half the homeowners surveyed (49 percent) “deep clean” their carpet at least every six months, with 39 percent hiring a professional carpet cleaning service. While nearly half of those surveyed (45 percent) “deep clean” other hard surfaces in their home at least every six months, only seven percent hire a professional.

To ensure an effective reduction of allergens in the home, the IICRC recommends that homeowners increase vacuuming frequency and hire professional certified cleaners.

“To maintain the appearance of floor coverings, all flooring - not only carpet - should be professionally cleaned to preserve finishes and durability, and to improve indoor air quality for family members,” said Bishop.

Complete survey findings may be viewed at www.CertifiedCleaners.org.

Additional Key Findings:

 

• Carpet is the most common floor covering in U.S. homes. The majority of U.S. homeowners use carpet in bedrooms (80 percent), living rooms (65 percent), offices/dens (68 percent) and family rooms (63 percent).
• The majority (52 percent) of survey participants indicated the primary advantage of carpet is that it’s comfortable. Forty-one percent say the biggest drawback is that it shows soil.
• Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of U.S. homeowners have rugs in their homes.
• Among homeowners who replaced their carpet, 49 percent did so because of wear while four in 10 (38 percent) replaced carpet due to soiling and staining issues.
• Half of U.S. homeowners (50 percent) say it’s extremely or very important to hire a professional cleaning service that is certified by a professional organization.

 

(Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of The Housekeeping Channel.)

 

Truth or Myth: Carpet Aggravates Allergies:  Created on March 14th, 2008.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014

 

About IICRC

The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is a certification and standard-setting nonprofit organization for the inspection, cleaning and restoration industries. The IICRC serves the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Japan, in partnership with regional and international trade associations.

The mission of IICRC is to identify and promote an international standard of care that establishes and maintains the health, safety and welfare of the built environment.

The IICRC, with industry-wide participation, certifies - and develops certifications and standards for - inspection, cleaning and restoration. The IICRC also serves as a valuable consumer referral source for IICRC-Certified technicians and firms. There are currently more than 53,000 active IICRC-Certified technicians, many with multiple certifications, and more than 6,000 IICRC-Certified Firms around the world.

 

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