Wood has health virtues. It does not have the problems of the other products used for the same purposes, carpet instead of wood floor, for example.
One of the aspects often overlooked by green building evaluation programs is the air quality inside houses. This air is often contaminated by a host of substances that are released not only because of the use of a variety of household products, but also from furniture and home finishing materials. The consequences on occupants’ health can be even worse considering that North Americans spend on average over 90% of their time indoors. The problem is compounded by the fact that more efficient houses are being built – tighter houses that do not ‘breathe’ as well – and the amount of glues going into these houses becomes ever more important.
Rugs and carpets are likely to present several problems in this regard. They are one of the largest sources of pollutants, both chemical and biological, in indoor air. Glues, fibre bonding agents and treatments (e.g. stain-resistant, anti-static, anti-odour) all release volatile materials. The dust that accumulates between rug and carpet fibres is also a source of many allergies.
Some carpets are coated with a pesticide – a voluntary toxic product – by the manufacturer. Others contain brominated flame retardants, which belong to a large family of chemicals that can be toxic for the liver and thyroid gland, disturb the endocrine system and cause fertility problems. Some others are treated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a synthetic chemical used in kitchen utensils (Teflon™) and whose molecules persist in the blood and breast milk of exposed persons. Risks for health, namely that of newborns, are well documented. It should be pointed out that young children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals contained in carpets. Not only do they spend more time indoors, they are also often on the ground, sitting or lying down, with their face very close to the carpet.
(Source: The many virtues of hardwoods)