Leading allergists agree that wood floors are the perfect choice for a healthy home. According to the American Lung Association wood floors in your bedroom and other main living areas can drastically improve air quality. This is not surprising when a large American company that recycles old carpet has stated that most used carpeting it receives for processing contains at least 35% of its weight in household dirt.
A report by the Healthy Flooring Network draw’s information from several reports and experiments carried out by leading health groups worldwide. It draws broad conclusions on the role fitted carpets play in determining the total allergen load in the home and the importance of this on the severity of allergic disease.
Detailed studies in the UK have found that 50-70% of asthma suffers are allergic to house dust mites. With up to 100,000 dust mites living in just one square metre of carpet and it being reported that 98% of UK homes have fitted carpets it is clear to understand why the UK has the highest prevalence of asthma symptoms in 13-14 year olds in the world at 19.8%, along with the second highest prevalence of eczema.
Carpets that are treated have themselves come in for huge criticism. When tested 3 out of 4 carpets that were listed as being treated against dust mites contain chemicals of a hazardous nature. These chemicals included organotins, phthalates, permethrin, triclosan, brominated flame retardants and formaldehyde. The World Health Organisation has recommended that they are substituted with less hazardous alternatives.
One study showed that the mite allergen concentration in dust from carpets could be 6-14 times higher than that from wood & laminate flooring.
Exposure to the mites in the first, crucial year of life can trigger a lifelong allergy. There is no cure, only prevention – controlling house dust mite populations – focusing on dust control, to reduce the concentration of dust-borne allergens in the living environment by controlling both allergen production and the dust which transports it.
House dust mites are not just restricted to carpets there are nearly universal in occurrence, a typical bed mattress may contain anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million mites. Ten percent of the weight of a two year old pillow may be composed of dead mites and their droppings
Pets are the second most important cause of domestic allergy and over 50% of asthmatic children are sensitised to allergens of cats and/or dogs. Once again the presence of fitted carpets is particularly strongly associated with high pet allergen levels. Even when a pet is removed from a house the allergen levels can remain significantly high.
Points to Note
• Carpets can contain the largest reservoir in total amount of mite allergens in the house
• The presence of carpets in a home can dramatically increase the total mite allergen load compared to having laminate or wood flooring.
• Up to 100,000 mites may live in one square metre of carpet.
• Carpets can harbour 6-14 times more dust mite allergens than laminate or wood flooring.
• The presence of fitted carpets is particularly strongly associated with high pet allergen levels.
How can we help reduce the number of dust mites?
• Replace feather and down pillows with synthetic fillings.
• Enclose the mattress top and sides with a plastic cover, thoroughly vacuuming mattress pillows and the base of the bed. Dampen and wipe the plastic mattress cover daily.
• Change and wash pillowcases, sheets, and under blankets, and vacuum the bed base and around the covered mattress weekly.
• Use nylon blankets rather than woollen or cotton ones.
• Frequently wash all bedding (blankets, mattress pads and comforters) in hot water. Also wash curtains.
• Frequent vacuuming as a dust control measure is more likely to aggravate allergic asthmatic conditions because conventional vacuums are inefficient – dust collection by conventional vacuums results in a significant increase in airborne dust concentrations. Vacuuming is best accomplished by cleaners that trap dust in a liquid medium such as water rather than a dust bag.
• Replace carpets with wood, tile, linoleum or vinyl floor coverings. (If you have carpets, vacuum every day.)