How to Avoid Potentially Harmful Chemicals in Your Area Rugs and Other Home Furnishings

You purchase a beautiful area rug. You know just where it will go within your home. You know this the second you set eyes on this special rug. The salesman doesn't need to give you the old hard sell. All he has to do is take your information and help you load the rug into the back of the Volvo. It's the one piece capable of pulling every other piece in the room together. You can hardly wait to run barefoot across your brand new rug. Each time you enter the room, you can't help but stop to admire your newest acquisition. It's perfect. Or so you thought. Before you know what's happening, you're eyes are itchy and watering. You feel headachy, perhaps even nauseous, with the only true relief occurring when you leave your home to breathe in some fresh air. Could it be your imagination playing tricks on you? Perhaps, it's something you ate? But no, it's worse than you thought, because now it's not only you who's sick, it's your husband and your new baby, too.

More likely the culprit causing your family's discomfort can be directly traced back to the chemicals used to make your beautiful rug. Area rugs and carpets, depending on how they are manufactured, and also on how they are chemically treated before shipping to stores, can emit chemicals into the surrounding air. These emission are called out-gases. The fibers from area rugs and new carpeting treated with certain chemicals can prove toxic to children, pets, and others with sensitivities. When it comes to carpeting, there are several chemicals to be on the lookout for, but the major one is used in the manufacturing of carpets and rugs is: formaldehyde.

But out-gassing caused by chemicals isn't limited to rugs, carpets, and other processed textiles goods. For the savvy consumer, it pays in more ways than one to take a look inside your kitchen cabinet and inside your laundry room closet. The chemicals and detergents you use on a daily basis to keep your home clean, free of bacteria and germs, can also be a major source of danger to your family.

It can be hard to fathom that common household products found millions of homes everyday, are being linked to environmental illnesses. When it comes to toxicity among household cleaners, many of these products are easily recognized because they contain chlorine and/or phenochlorethlyene.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that the walls in any room in your house many also contain harmful toxins. Chemicals detrimental to your health can be found almost anywhere in your home. They can be in the paints that cover the walls in your home, products used to clean your home, the carpets that line your floors. All those things you so loving do to beautify and enhance your home environment are some of the very things that can cause potential harm to your family.

You might be tempted to ask, is this really a problem, or simply another fad which will fade away with time? Well, according to the EPA, over 11,000 people will die from indoor air pollution, while even more will find themselves ill from some form of environmental pollution linked either to their homes or offices.

So, what are some ways to insure that your home doesn't comprise your family's health?

  • First, a foremost, become a tag reader. That's what they're for. Before you purchase those new carpets and/or beautiful Oriental rugs, ask the salesperson what manufacturing process and chemical treatments are performed before the carpets are shipped to the store. Before making that final commitment to buy, make sure you feel comfortable with the answers to your questions.

  • For carpets where the origin is unknown, you can try to shampoo these rugs with cleansers formulated to reduce/remove the chemicals used in manufacturing. These products can be found anywhere you purchase rugs, hardware stores, and home renovation outlets, such as HomeDepot and Loew's.

  • Again, first and foremost, read your labels. When you purchase household cleaners, check the labels to make sure that they contain no chlorine, ammonias, buyl ethers, pine oils, masking agents, and are fragrance free. They say it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man. Well, the same is true with cleaners. It's just as easy to use toxin free products as it is ones that can prove harmful to you and your family.

  • Use paints listed as "American Formulating and Manufacturing" (AFM). These paints do not use aromatic hydrocarbons or materials such as formaldehyde, phenois, heavy metals, crystalline silica annonia, chlorine butyl ethers or fragrances. You will know this because these paints don't smell like paint. They have no ordor. They are also comparable in coverage and quality, with no significant difference in price.

  • If you think you may have been exposed to toxic agents, take action immediately. Exposure over time to the chemicals that cause indoor air pollution can leave those who are chemically-sensitive and allergy-prone with seriously damaged immune systems.

Willett Thomas ([email protected]) is a freelance writer living in the Brookland section of Washington, D.C.

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