Conventional wisdom has long held that people with allergies and asthma should avoid carpeting. Now, new research is debunking those carpet myths—and innovation is ushering in a new era of carpets with “magical” properties.
By Gwen Moran
From the legend of King Solomon’s carpet to the magic tapestry stories in One Thousand and One Nights, carpets have long had mystical properties attributed to them, fascinating people around the world. Today, however, carpets’ mythic properties have been overshadowed by reports that they collect and harbor legions of contaminants and allergens that could have adverse health effects.
For years, doctors and scientists have been telling people with allergies and asthma to opt for hard surfaced floors, such as hardwood, ceramic or stone tile, and others over carpeting. They claimed that carpets trapped all manner of allergens that could trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks. One report in the UK newspaper The Guardian even went so far as to say that carpets harbour toxins, including lead, pesticides and carcinogens, at levels far higher than those found on polluted city streets.
But recent research may restore carpet to its favored place. A recently published study by the German Allergy and Asthma Association (Deutscher Allergie- und Asthmabund e.v. – DAAB) examined the fine dust pollution in households with hard floor compared to households with carpets. The result is dramatic: The average fine dust pollution in households with hard floors is twice as high as in households with carpets. Because of improvements in the fibers used to manufacture it, carpet actually traps indoor contaminants, acting as a constant and effective indoor air filter.
Further confirming this, modern carpet construction and improved manmade and natural fibers and filament structures capture fine particles from the air and trap them. Another recent study by Airmid Healthgroup limited, a biomedical research organization focused on health issues, found that carpet trapped allergens to a greater extent than hard surface floors, resulting in fewer particles escaping into the air.
“Carpet acts as a passive air filter, trapping dust, pollen and other particles and removing them from the breathing zone,” says Mathias Stündl, Head of Development BCF (bulked continuous filament) at Oerlikon Neumag, a manufacturer of plants for the production of BCF carpet yarns, synthetic staple fibers and nonwovens. BCF carpet yarn is one long, continuous fiber that makes up a section of carpet.
Walking and doing other activities on carpets did not release particles into the air. Best of all, carpets cleaned by vacuuming with a HEPA-class filters or with hot water extraction reduced both surface allergens and airborne particle counts, maintaining indoor air quality. Carpets also provide greater insulation and noise reduction, as well as adding comfort and additional design options to various décor.
In addition to improving yarn filaments so that they trap dust effectively well, Oerlikon Neumag’s innovative machines and yarn production processes help customers manufacture carpets that use less yarn for the same coverage. This leads to significant cost advantages in carpet production. In addition, innovations in sustainable materials make today’s carpets release almost no emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—chemicals released from a variety of products which turn to gases and can affect indoor air quality—of any household furniture or building material.
Innovation in fiber is also leading to some interesting and revolutionary new applications and possibilities. Yarns with low denier per filament allow manufacturers to create softer carpets while other innovations include exceptional stain and soil resistance. In the newest developments, yarn and carpet manufacturers are creating carpets with high thermal absorption properties that give the feeling of coolness and which improve indoor air quality even more. With such features and advantages, innovation in carpet manufacturing is ushering in a new era of magic carpets—those which are better options not only for those who suffer from allergies and asthma, but for virtually anyone concerned with overall health.