Floors can trip you or knock you to your knees but they also have some inherent health hazards, including toxic chemicals, allergens, and respiratory and physical irritants. Your tile, carpet, or even natural organic flooring can make you sick. Are you sensitive to your floor? Is your floor toxic?
Soft Flexible Flooring, Gentle to Joints and Kids, Can make You Sick
Many of the padded floors made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) contain phthalates. This chemical is found in plastics and is known to disrupt the endocrine system. Researchers have found phthalates in babies’ urine; a Swedish study reported that babies absorb the chemical from the floor. This does not apply to the soft floor products popular in play areas and fast food restaurants.)
Asbestos Floor Tiles are Still Around
You can restore old homes by adding carpet over asbestos tiles, since removing them is hazardous to human health, but problems arise when homeowners are unaware that their flooring covers asbestos tiles, or when the tiles break or tear, releasing minute amounts of dust into the air. An environmental professional can check the air levels in the home if there is any doubt.
What if you find that you’ve got asbestos in your home? Removing or re-padding these tiles isn’t a task to take on by yourself. Mesothelioma, a cancer of the protective linings of internal body parts, particularly the lungs and chest, is a serious disease and after any exposure, risk is significant. Asbestos production ceased in 1978 but the ban wasn’t in force until 1989, so if your home was built earlier than 1990, check for asbestos.
Carpet may Contain Neurotoxins and Pathogens
Carpet absorbs odors, sounds, and physical impact. It also absorbs bacteria and fungi. Fungus can grow due to small levels of moisture, even when you wipe or dry the carpet. Spilled liquids can leak through to the padding underneath the carpet, where the fungus develops. Bacteria come from dead insects, pet hair/fur, human skin, and all of the dirt brought in for years simply by walking on the carpet from outside to inside. Then there are dust mites.
In addition, the chemicals used to clean and protect the carpet fill your airspace. The glues, fire retardants, and fibers chemically treated with anti-static and anti-stain solutions create a toxic brew that can affect susceptible people. Think about the carpet when allergies, asthma, sneezing, burning eyes, or general malaise develop and you can find no other cause, particularly if you’ve recently had the carpet chemically cleaned and a few days to a week later you felt sick. Have the carpets professionally steam cleaned if you have respiratory allergies, or consider other flooring options.
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