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What's in Your Rug?

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If you currently have carpet in your house and you have a choice to take it out - do it 

If you are planning on installing new synthetic carpet in the future - don’t.   There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t! 

To start, carpets have so many toxic components.  From the chemicals that make up the the carpet and backing, to the toxic dyes, glues, and adhesives, all the way to the chemical finishings to resist flame, water and stains.  All in the name of selling a better carpet to YOU!  

Not to mention the number of VOCS.  Real languageVOCS stands for volatile organic compounds which account for that lovely "new carpet" smell!   It’s an extremely hazardous toxin that according to the Environmental Protection Agency can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, frequent headaches, nausea, dizziness, and can also damage the liver, kidney and central nervous system. 

Whether they’re new or old, carpets have chemicals that continuously off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs)  for the lifespan of the rug. Even if it’s a carpet that has been laid for a long period of time, you may not smell them, and you certainly can’ see them, but they’re there...exposing everyone in the family to concentrations of VOC in the air. 

It only gets worse if you have small babies and children. 
Your babies spend a lot of their time on the floor and at ground level, breathing in all sorts of things that adults don’t.  Rugs can trap all kinds of stuff like dust mites, dirt, pesticides, and other toxins brought into your home, including your pets’ feet. As children, their immune system is also not completely formed, and their bodies are so smallthat they are constantly absorbing chemicals from the carpet.  

A 2018 report by Ecology Center (EC), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), and Changing Markets Foundation (CM) tested rugs from the marketplace and revealed the presence of toxic substances in carpets that were produced and sold by the nation’s six largest carpet manufacturers!

Engineered Flooring (J+J), Interface, Milliken, Mohawk, Shaw and Tandus Centiva. These are toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, respiratory disease, heart attacks, strokes, asthma, and immune and developmental health problems in children. 

This landmark study is the first of its kind to test the nation’s leading carpet brands for specific toxic chemicals! 

It’s so important to understand all the processes that go into making a rug, since so many of our homes have them. So let’s break down the componentsso you can see why they are so toxic. 

  • Synthetic materials- manmade fibers like polypropylene, also known as olefin, acrylic, polyester, and nylon. These four materials are derivatives of petroleum and are chemically-treated with various compounds with a negative impact on human health and the environment.

  •  Carpet backing/ synthetic rubber-   Many carpets found on the market contain phthalates, a type of plasticizer often used in PVC carpet backing.  Phthalates have been shown to migrate from the carpet into the air people breathe and has been linked to hormone disruption and adverse developmental effects in children, including reproductive and neurobehavioral impacts 

  • Dyes- You choose your rug by its color.  Does it match your decor?  Does it fit into the aesthetics of the room?  But when you’re choosing a color, youre also choosing chemicals. Some of the chemicals found in synthetic dyes are mercury, lead, chromium, copper, sodium chloride, toluene, and benzene. Exposure to these substances can be toxic. 

  • Glues and adhesive when laying down your carpet-  These adhesives often contain formaldehyde and other chemicals that off-gas into the home environment. 
  • Fungicides and pesticides -  topical chemicals are used to eliminate dust mites, bacteria, molds and fungi. 
  • Fire retardants- Fire retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs is toxic and are associated with neurodevelopmental problems in children and altered thyroid function in pregnant women. 
  • PFCsanother class of toxic chemicals used in carpets. When a synthetic rug says it is stain-resistant and water-repellant you know that the rug has gotten a dose of PFC’s.  PFC’s can disrupt the endocrine activity and lower the immunityExposure to PFAS chemicals is also associated with cancer, hormone disruption, obesity, developmental disorders, and other adverse health effects. It’s estimated that 95% of people in the U.S. have traces of them in their blood! 

These are just a handful of reasons why you should opt for a natural safer alternative and choose a rug or carpet that is made from natural materials. Organic cotton is a great choice for baby safe rugs. Made without any backing, they are easy to wash and dry, and are extremely durable for high traffic areas.   There are also different sustainable companies in the marketplace who sell rugs made of wool (that is not laden with chemicals), seagrass, mohair, jute, and sisal which are also great alternatives to synthetic materials. 


Here are some tips when looking for a natural rug or carpet. 

  • Be wary if a company is selling a “Green” or “natural” rug.
    This could m
    ean that while the cotton grown may be organic,  the finishings are full of chemicals.  If in doubt, ask to see certifications.  If the company is transparent, they will provide you with them or already have them already listed on their website.  If you are looking at purchasing wool carpets check to see if their wool is sourced from organically farmed sheep and that the finishing process does not contain any chemicals. 
  • Choose rugs that are free from glues and don’t contain PVC backing or petroleum based latex. If a rug has decorative items and trims added, glues are most likely used. 
  • Check to make sure it has not been through chemical treatments such as permanent stain resistance, mothproofing and that chemical agents were not added for fungicides and mildewcides. 

  • You want to choose carpets and rugs that can be easily cleaned and maintained with fragrance free carpet shampoos.  For a natural stain remover, you can try vinegar or baking soda.  It works! 

  • Keep your carpets clean and vacuum frequently 

When shopping for a rug, choose your rug manufacturer/company first - then choose your carpet or rug.  This way you’ve done your background check before choosing a safe rug you love. 


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