April 30th, 2014

Carpet Detective: My Hunt for a Chemical-Free Carpet

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Groovy Green Livin carpet

This piece was originally published over at Moms Clean Air Force

Air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk according to new estimates released by WHO, showing that in 2012 around 7 million people died — one in eight of total global deaths — as a result of air pollution. 4.3 million of those deaths were attributable to indoor air pollution.

New carpet installation is one cause of indoor air pollution and can fill household air with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including probable carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene and stain repellents.

My struggle to find a chemical-free carpet began in college, but it didn’t end there. Every space that I’ve come to call home over the years has had some form of carpeting.

The toxic carpet issue became real as I watched my first child begin to roll and fall face first into our plush, new carpet. Most conventional carpets are made from synthetic fibers doused in artificial dyes, stain repellents, adhesives and other toxic chemicals. And my son was diving head first into that toxic soup.

What can we do?

BECOME A CARPET DETECTIVE!

As with any purchase, it’s important to be an informed consumer. We can all become carpet detectives! Contact retailers directly to ask questions and verify that you’re receiving a product free from toxic chemicals. Not only will this ensure that your carpet is safe for you and your family, but it will also notify retailers that we, as consumers, care about our products and we refuse to purchase products that are toxic.

Wondering where to buy a chemical free carpet? I detected a few brands that fit the bill. Some better than others. Some more expensive than others.

Earth Weave

Earth Weave is my top choice for chemical free carpets. According to James Stinnett, President of Earth Weave Carpet Mills:

“The company’s commitment lies not in the recycling petrochemical products, but rather in taking advantage of the ultimate manufacturer; Mother Nature and her renewable natural resources. There’s no safe level of toxicity”

He also refers to the “recycled pop bottle products” that other manufacturers are using as an eco-selling point, and calls this “green-washing” stating that even though these products are marketed as environmentally friendly, they’re truly not.

Earth Weave uses something called Bio-Floor, which is 100% bio-degradable, and will decompose in a similar fashion to trees and grass clippings. Their products are made of pure wool, with no dyes, pesticides or stain protections.

Bloomsburg Carpet 

Bloomsburg Carpet is a family owned business that focuses on using sustainable fibers that are ecologically friendly and readily renewable. According to the company “Our carpets meet the highest standard of indoor air quality and meet or exceed the Green Label Plus* criteria for floor coverings.”  Green Label Plus is an independent testing program that identifies carpet with very low emissions of VOCs to help improve indoor air quality.

Woolshire

Woolshire is a family owned business, using wool to make their carpets. Wool acts as a natural fire retardant and also is a non-allergenic fiber which does not promote the growth of bacteria, dust mites, or give off harmful emissions. All Woolshire carpets are certified Green Label Plus* (see above for description). They’ve also partnered with EnviroCel, a natural backing for their carpets made from recycled soda bottles and soy beans.

Helios 

Helios carpets are made in the US and are owned by Mohawk, a large conventional carpet distributor. Helios carpets are primarily made from New Zealand wool. Wool is dirt and soil resistant, fire retardant and non-allergenic. While most carpeting is tufted, Helios Wool carpets are woven. This makes them wear twice as long, and the company claims this reduces energy consumption by 50% during manufacturing and keeps them out of landfills for a many more years.

*Note about Green Label Plus certification: Some carpet manufacturers argue that the Green Label Plus certification isn’t a very stringent or reliable standard.

Don’t you think it’s time to take the burden away from the consumer and place it where it belongs – with the carpet industry?

Have you had any luck finding non-toxic, chemical-free carpets?

photo credit: Helmuts Guigo via photopin cc

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13 Responses to “Carpet Detective: My Hunt for a Chemical-Free Carpet”

  1. This is such a hard topic. Considering many of our exposures to toxic chemicals in the home are through building materials, it makes it a very expensive “fix” great to have this in one spot since many people ask about safer carpets. Thanks Lori!
    Lindsay recently posted..Chemical additives in food kept secretMy Profile

  2. I’ve never even heard of any of these brands – so thank you! Fortunately, only one room in our house is carpeted but we might redo the basement at some point so we’ll probably need carpet there.
    Micaela @MindfulMomma recently posted..Top Ways to Air Out Your Home For Spring #HealthierHomeMy Profile

  3. Non-toxic carpet is just really tough to come by. I think you are always better off with wood and area rugs if you can swing it. I do wonder about wool and how it’s treated in some of those brands.

  4. I think so too Betsy. Especially when you’re dealing with allergies. Over time we’ve removed some of the carpet in our home. There isn’t much left at this point.

  5. I had never heard of many of these brands either Micaela until I started doing my research. It’s nice to know there are non-toxic carpet options out there- not too many, but a few good choices.

  6. Thanks Lindsay. It’s frightening how toxic our indoor air can be. It’s always good to be educated before heading out to buy a carpet.

  7. Hi Lori,

    Thank you for this post. To make this even more difficult, the carpet (and rug) industry also has a poor record of social responsibility and fair trade. Do you know if any of these companies have committed to fair labor practices (US) or are certified fair trade (other countries). Thanks

  8. Thanks Maura. That’s an excellent question. After looking for a bit on their sites I’m not finding much.I just sent your question over to Earth Weave. I’ll let you know if I hear back.

  9. With any carpet you have to look what the back of the carpet is made of. Most are made of plastic and not the best adhesives. You want to look for a jute back and low toxic adhesives. I only know earth weave from your list. We have their carpet pad.

  10. Very true Anna. Earth Weave has confirmed that they don’t use synthetic backing. The president emailed me with this: “I am not sure that it comes across in the article but the other manufacturers you listed all have synthetic backings (SBR – styrene butadiene) that are identical to those used in every other nylon, polypropylene or polyester carpets.”

  11. I enjoyed your article as this is a hot topic for my family. We are active duty military and our housing usually consists of carpet that is so old they don’t have dates for it or new carpet that causes my son and I to have asthma attacks. One thing I should point out is about the wool carpets you mentioned being allergen free. There is a growing population that is developing an allergy to lanolin, which is found in wool so these carpets could potentially be a very expensive way of finding that out.

  12. Thanks for the info Tonya. Many carpet stores let you take a sample home to test out. Maybe this would be a good way to determine if any allergies exist.

  13. Thank you for this post, I never considered what goes into a carpet to make it stain resistant and never thought about that “new carpet smell”. I did more research after reading this post and cannot believe all of the “stuff” that can be used in carpet, including polypropylene, stain and/or soil repellents, synthetic latex or vinyl backing, or carpate padding which could be made from urethane or PVC.

    Then, you have possible antimicrobial and anti-static treatments, dyes. Oi vey.

    Wool and Hemp carpets seem to be good alternatives in certain situations, and apparently, the carpet industry is answering these growing concerns with its own green label certification program.

    Again, thanks for the post. Really!
    Jeff Morgan recently posted..Why Most Roof Repair Work Should Be Left to Professionals!My Profile

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I like to make noise and stir the pot especially when an issue hits home and effects the health of our families. Join me as I make some noise and share along the way tips for living a green and healthy life. Read more.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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