Numerous myths have developed over the past 50 years related to ordinary consumer products. The Alar scare with apples, the saccharine and NutriSweet scares with sweeteners, the phalate scare with children’s toys, the toilet seat scare with syphilis, the red M&M (candy) scare, and so on. Generally, these groundless myths become fact as a result of a news story. The more sensational the story and the more individual lives it touches, the better the news coverage. Many of these myths originate from one scientific study that is never replicated, but become unsubstantiated fact simply because it has been reported as news.
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Carpet has had several of these occurrences over the past 30 years and without exception, each news story was eventually found to be false. Numerous court cases have been thrown out based on these myths, yet the news media often fails to follow up to correct misperceptions once they have been created.
When you begin to shop for carpet you may be confronted with many of these myths by physicians, friends, family, teachers, and other professionals. Many of the myths related to chemical emissions, allergies, Kawasaki Syndrome, dust mites, and mold and mildew have been addressed in this section, but you may run across other sensational stories. Keep in mind the source, and place little stock in stories that can’t be confirmed, even if the information comes from your physician. Physicians can be blinded by myths like any other person.
Carpet Myths: Separating Fact and Fiction
Carpet contains formaldehyde. Fact. Formaldehyde was first identified as a possible carcinogen in 1973. The carpet industry immediately went to work in removing all possible sources in which formaldehyde could be introduced into carpet components. The carpet industry was the first industry to proactively establish chemical emissions standards for their product and every carpet is now tested for formaldehyde emissions. More than 10 years later other industries are now being forced to adopt emission standards, similar to the voluntary testing program that the carpet industry initiated in 1992.
Carpet is a source for allergic reactions. Fact. While carpet may trap allergens within its pile, the electrostatic properties of carpet tends to hold these allergens, thus limiting airborne release. Other flooring materials allow allergens to become airborne with every footstep. The best bet for limiting allergic reactions is to clean carpet regularly. Carpet cleaning has been proven highly effective in removing allergen from within the carpet pile.
Dust Mite Allergen in carpet causes allergic reactions. Fact. Numerous studies have examined airborne release of dust mite allergen from carpet. Since dust mite allergen is extremely heavy and very difficult to lift from the carpet pile to become airborne, few allergic reactions would be anticipated from allergen within carpet pile. Without inhalation it is very difficult to stimulate histamine production (allergic reactions). Our pillows probably exhibit far more allergic reactions from dust mite allergen, since the allergen must be inhaled directly from a contaminated surface.
Latex used in carpet causes allergic reactions. Fact. Latex allergy is caused by natural proteins found only in natural latex. Carpet does not use natural latex. Carpet uses a synthetic SBR latex, which does not contain natural proteins that produce allergic reactions in latex sensitive individuals.
Also See Carpet and Allergies and Health Scares for other examples of myths that have gotten past good science to become public misperception.
Did you know?
Many myths related to carpet were created as a result of preliminary findings that were never proven. In fact, many were disproved shortly after news release, but the media rarely returns to an issue to correct misperceptions created as a result of reporting preliminary findings. Over the years there have been numerous public health scares regarding other products as well and many were determined to be false.