Carpet adds warmth and comfort to home environments. It also filters airborne pollutants, reducing the concentration of VOCs volatile organic compounds in indoor spaces. VOCs can cause eye and nose irritation, headaches and other health problems. Carpets can also act as a sound-absorbing surface, keeping noise levels lower. For these reasons, many homeowners choose to keep their carpets despite the negative stigma associated with the material in terms of health and indoor air quality.

For decades, people felt that carpeting was unhealthy and removed it from homes and schools in favor of smooth floors. However, researchers found that when properly maintained, carpets can be healthier than other floor coverings for those with respiratory sensitivities and asthma. The positive filtering properties of carpets help to reduce dust mite populations and other allergens, such as pollen, pet dander and mold spores, by trapping them. Carpets can also absorb harmful microorganisms that are present in the air such as bacteria, virus particles and pesticides.

Some of these harmful chemicals can leach out of Healthy Carpets, particularly synthetic carpets that contain harsh chemical additives and dyes. The polypropylene in some brands of carpet can release volatile organic compounds when burned, causing breathing difficulties for individuals with sensitive respiratory systems. Using a no-shoes policy and a rug with a low pile to minimize the amount of dirt introduced to your floor, as well as regularly washing your pet’s bedding and favorite spots on the carpet can significantly reduce the presence of allergens in your home and prevent them from settling into your carpet.

A number of chemicals are used in the manufacture of synthetic carpets to waterproof, stain-resistant or antimicrobial treatments. These include perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, which have been linked to a variety of health problems including cancer, birth defects and hormone disruption. Many manufacturers have now eliminated these chemicals from their products and replaced them with safer alternatives such as non-VOC water-based coatings.

In addition, the backing of synthetic carpets may be made with vinyl or polyurethane that can contain phthalates, a group of harmful plasticizers linked to eye and reproductive health issues. Many manufacturers have moved away from these chemicals as well, and now use alternative glues to secure their carpeting to the subfloor.

Choosing carpet with a natural or eco-friendly backing and utilizing the right type of adhesive for installation is an excellent way to improve your home’s health. Look for carpet tiles that attach with carpet tacks, as this method of installation is less likely to leak harmful chemicals into the environment. Additionally, try to find a carpet with minimal stain treatment as these chemicals can be harmful in the long run.

Explore the wide selection of carpets offered at the Carpet and Rug Institute that meet their Healthy Carpet standards. These standards are designed to encourage health care institutions to purchase carpets that limit exposure to toxic chemicals and are more sustainable than their current flooring options. To meet these requirements, the carpet must have a recycled content of 25% and be attached mechanically without the use of a chemical adhesive.