Tag Archives: multiple chemical sensitivity

Carpet and Your Health

Many of the flooring staff at Tri County Floors have been in the flooring business for over 20 years and, therefore, have been exposed to flooring products for the same time.  We, like you, are concerned about our health and that of our families and so have followed very closely the debate concerning carpeting and its emissions.

A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is important becauswe we spend more time indoors than ever before. Indoor air typically contains pollutants including chemicals called Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC’s). They originate from a variety of sources such as building materials, cooking, heating systems, furnishings, cleaning, etc.  Fortunately, they are typically found in extremely small quantities; usually parts-per-billion.  The vast majority of VOC’s are not harmful at the extremely low levels commonly found in homes.  Some VOC’s are responsible for many of the the things we find pleasant: the fragrance of a rose, the smell of a juicy steak, perfume, etc.

A few individuals have attributed adverse health effects to exposure to chemicals from new carpet.  The reported symptoms range from mild irritation to the controversial diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), recently renamed by the World Health Organization to Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance (IEI).  No evidence based on credible science and medicine has linked health effects to VOC’s from new carpet.

IAQ publicity was stepped up in 1988 when carpet received attention during renovations in the headquarters building of the US Environmental Protection Agency.  A few employees reported symptoms typical of those common in problem building situations such as eye and respiratory irritation, headache, nausea, lethargy and fatigue.  They blamed a specific chemical, 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PC), which is responsible for carpet’s characteristic odor.  Considerable research since 1988 has shown this allegation to be unfounded.

The media ignored the fact that the building had a long history of indoor air quality problems and employee complaints. Subsequent studies by the EPA scientists and independent researchers showed the problems were caused by extremely poor ventilation, heavy infestation of fungi on many surfaces and heavy accumulation of dirt and fungi in the air handling system due to poor maintenance.  Carpet’s only role was that its odor provided a focal point.  This was a classic case of a building with IAQ problems.

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