The Natural Beauty of Wooden Floors for Home Health
When we bought our house, I knew I would want everything to be as natural as possible and a lot of the materials currently used in the house would need to be pared back or replaced. One huge part of this would be bringing back the original hardwood floors buried underneath quite a bit of heavy, older carpeting. What I’ve found I really wanted to share for anyone thinking about carpets in their own homes!
– Cora Hilts, REV CEO
Discovering The Facts About Conventional Carpets -
I remember reading a book by Dr. Shanna Swann about hidden toxins in the home and carpets being quite a large culprit, though I hadn’t thought too much about it since. When we moved into the house and I was confronted with living with them every day it did make me think about it again. And as we started to strip away that carpeting, we were seeing so many particles emerge and layers of odd foamy materials that did not look healthy in any way.
I decided to research what exactly is in the majority of carpets and the materials they sit upon. Looking into it, I found an article from the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine that confirmed what Dr. Swann has said about the toxins, and here are some highlighted points below:
The Facts -
“We have studied several hundred carpets in our laboratory. Under carefully controlled conditions, we had groups of laboratory mice breath air containing the mixtures of chemicals released by these carpets. Like the people, the mice became ill with irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, difficulty breathing, and altered nervous system function.”
Furthermore, that ‘new carpet smell’ comes from 4-PC, associated with eye, nose and upper respiratory problems. 4-PC is used in the latex backing of 95% of US carpets.
Fire retardants in carpets often contain PBDEs which are known to cause damage to thyroid, immune system and brain development functions in humans.
Carpets are also likely to carry a heavy burden of dirt, pesticides and other toxins brought in. Carpets can hold eight times their weight in toxin-filled trapped dirt that is well hidden in the fibers and underneath the carpet. The EPA has stated that 80% of human exposure to pesticides occurs indoors.
Chemicals used in some new carpets, carpet pads and the adhesives used to install them can harm your health. Some of these chemicals and glues are made with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which emit odors and pollutants. New carpet installation also has been associated with wheezing and coughing in babies in their first year of life (American Lung Association).
Then there is the environmental impact. Most flooring sold in the U.S. is carpet, with 11 billion square feet sold per year. Of that, only five percent is recycled. Billions of pounds of carpets are annually dumped in American landfills or burned in incinerators – releasing deadly pollutants into the air, soil and water (Healthy Building Network).
These facts were surprising but not shocking to me as we uncovered more and more foamy substances and the carpets gave off so many particles whilst being pulled up – there are more facts to learn about when it comes to what’s in them so I would highly suggest having a quick google (or even better use Ecosia!) to find out more.
My Decision -
I have lived with carpets for years and am just now in a place where I can make decisions about having them or not, but for anyone thinking about putting them in possibly I wanted to share this as I had no idea about most of the above myself. As we move further into this renovation I am learning more and more that as natural as possible always seems to be the best option, and that there really are so many areas within the home where hidden toxins and environmental impacts are lurking (can’t wait to share what I’m finding about paint!) so if you’re thinking about them you may want to consider if there is a way to redo your wood floors instead!
Great alternatives are keeping your wood floors with vintage or natural rugs, or looking for an organic carpeting company that use fibres like hemp, wool and jute. We are getting a few rugs from Armadillo, who do amazing sustainable rugs using natural materials. I also found a beautiful vintage Persian rug pictured below that was my great grandmother’s that my parents had in storage that will now sit under our dining room table.
If you do have carpets just trying to go easy on the chemicals in your home, try natural cleaning and home products, green guard certified paints and give them a hoover often to try and keep them as free from anything they may hold on to you wouldn’t want to be breathing in! Also a good steam and even something as simple as keeping the windows open can be a huge help. It can seem daunting, but with knowledge we can hopefully start in our very own homes making the world a healthier place.