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What's on Your Floor?

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Allergy and asthma sufferers know the importance of clean air. By knowing allergen sources and how to prevent or lessen allergen exposure, you can minimize your discomfort.

Allergy and asthma sufferers know the importance of clean air. By knowing allergen sources and how to prevent or lessen allergen exposure, you can minimize your discomfort.

Flooring

Choosing the right floor covering means carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of each. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the harder the surface, the healthier the floor, with ceramic tile being the number one choice for those with allergies. Ceramic flooring won’t easily collect dust or mold, but it can be less comfortable to stand upon for long periods of time and can pose a hazard when wet.

Other types of coverings include resilient flooring (comfortable and easy to clean), wood flooring (long-lasting), laminate flooring (easy to install and maintain), and carpets (warm and sound-absorbent).

Volatile Organic Compounds

Carpets emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during installation. Carpet backings are composed of a polypropylene mesh with a latex-bonding agent, a potential VOC source. Most carpets are also treated for stain and fire resistance, a further source of emissions. Release of VOCs can continue for weeks to months after installation. Although no study exists linking carpet VOC emissions to adverse health effects, allergy and asthma sufferers experience definite discomfort from carpet installation. To reduce this discomfort, ensure your house is well ventilated when installing carpet.

In 1993, Canadian carpet manufacturers began voluntary compliance to strict industry standards that limit VOC levels. Products that comply with this program display the Green Label. This label indicates that the carpet meets the standards of the Indoor Air Quality Program of the Canadian Carpet Institute.

Down with Dust

Aside from VOC emissions, dust mites are the biggest source of allergens in carpets. These microscopic organisms reside in places that collect dust, such as upholstery, mattresses, and carpets. The only way to reduce irritation is to eliminate dust to make these places inhospitable to dust mites. Also consider:

  • maintaining an indoor humidity below 55 percent
  • cleaning frequently and immediately cleaning spills
  • vacuuming weekly, preferably with a high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter
  • having carpets professionally steam cleaned annually.

The Carpet Debate

Industry and health experts alike debate whether carpets are good or bad for allergy and asthma sufferers. Some argue that since carpets act as a “sink” for dust and dirt particles, they keep particles out of the air and respiratory tracts. Others argue that non-textile floor coverings help reduce the accumulation of dust and dirt. Carpeting indeed serves to settle and collect dust in the home, acting as a large surface filter of unwanted particulate pollution. Like any filter, regular, thorough cleaning of carpets is necessary, and failure to adequately maintain carpets can lead to an unwanted build-up of dust mites and other allergens.

When selecting floor coverings for your home, choose wisely. Regardless of what you install, implement a cleaning and maintenance regimen that will reduce dust and dirt, and alleviate allergy and asthma symptoms. Your family will breathe a sigh of allergy relief.

Sources of Potential Pollution

  • paints
  • paint strippers
  • varnishes
  • wood finishes
  • waxes
  • caulking
  • adhesives
  • wall and floor coverings
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