Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For Asthma, Should I Remove My Carpet?

Bethany Richmond, CRI, on For Asthma, Should I Remove My Carpet?
A question that comes up regularly has to do with whether to remove carpet from your home when someone in your household - say your child - has asthma or allergies, for that matter.

Recently, my friend Bethany Richmond from the Carpet and Rug Institute Blog came across the results published in 2004 of the Inner City Asthma Study, which proved that no health benefits come from removing carpet.

I asked her to share an overview with us here.


My Child Has Asthma. Should I Remove My Carpet? Major medical study says no health benefits to removing carpet.

If you have a child with asthma, it’s likely that, at some time or another, your doctor or other healthcare provider will recommend you remove the carpet from your home. Many consumer websites recommend the same thing, based on the fact that carpet will hold more dust and allergens than hard surface floors.

Carpet manufacturers counter this, saying research shows that the fact that carpet will hold more dust is actually a good thing: dust that is trapped in carpet is not circulating in room air, where children can breathe it in. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), which represents U.S. carpet manufacturers, says dust in carpet stays put until it is vacuumed or extracted away. The group tests vacuum cleaners and other carpet cleaning equipment, and posts a list of the best ones on its website, www.carpet-rug.org and more specifically in a section detailing Seal of Approval Carpet Cleaning and Maintenance Products.

So, what should you believe about carpet and asthma?

One major study of inner city children with asthma found that when allergen sources are removed from their homes, through improved cleaning practices and elimination of tobacco smoke, asthmatic children will do better, no matter what kind of product is on the floor. A large-scale medical research project called “The Inner City Asthma Study” showed that, when allergen sources such as mold, rodent, and cockroaches are removed, as well as a child’s exposure to tobacco smoke, children’s asthma greatly improves. Further, the Inner-City Asthma Study found no difference in the improvement experienced by children who lived in homes with carpet versus children from homes with other types of flooring. In addition, no difference was found in the levels of allergens measured in carpeted homes compared to homes with hard surface floors.

An article describing the study, titled, Results of a Home-Based Environmental Intervention among Urban Children with Asthma,” is published on the website of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The study followed 937 children from seven major U.S. cities over the course of a year. Of the participants, more than 50% of the children, aged 5-11 years, had positive skin tests to three or more allergen groups. Other common elements of the group were that they were from families whose incomes were at or close to the poverty level, as well as these factors: Cockroaches were reported in 58% of homes, wall-to-wall carpeting in the child's bedroom in 55%, a smoker in 48%, mice or rats in 40%, and furry pets in 28%.

At the outset of the study, researchers sought to remove carpet from the children’s bedrooms, but factors such as rental agreements, kept them from it. Still, family members were instructed to remove the carpet from their children’s bedrooms wherever possible.

Family members were given HEPA-filter vacuum cleaners and cleaning products and educated about various allergens and how to remove them from the home. Children’s beds were encased in dust-mite-blocking covers, and professional pest exterminators were called in where needed.

The study found that children in the intervention group missed fewer days of school, slept through the night more, and made fewer trips to the emergency room. Contrary to researchers’ expectations, children with carpet in their bedrooms improved as much and did just as well as children who had hard surface floors.

The interventions also produced marked declines in the measured levels of allergens in the home. Again, in contrast to predictions, no difference in allergen reduction was found between homes with carpets and those without carpeting.

The Inner City Asthma Study was sponsored in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health. According to published disclosure statements, none of the researchers or institutions were affiliated with or sponsored by any representative of the carpet industry.

The findings of the Inner City Asthma Study refute the widely-held notion that patients with asthma and/or allergies must remove their carpet, and according to Carpet and Rug Institute President Werner Braun, the study confirms the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) assertion that clean, dry carpet is a healthy flooring choice for everyone, including children and adults with asthma and allergies. “CRI’s position is based on a body of sponsored as well as independent research, but the Inner City study is significant in that it comes from the medical community,” Braun said.


Thank you, Bethany, for sharing this information and helping answer the question whether or not to remove carpet from your home when your child or someone else in your household has asthma! If you'd like to learn more about the Inner City Asthma study, you might want to read the posts that Bethany wrote on the CRI Blog. More specifically,

Given Bethany's observations about the importance of vacuuming your carpet to remove allergens, here is a link to the Carpet and Rug Institute's website where they offer information about selecting vacuum cleaners and which ones are Seal of Approval certified.

You may also find these previous posts I've written helpful. Although they address allergies and carpet, the advice they offer remains relevant for asthma:
What are your reactions to the research and to Bethany's summary?

If you like what you've read, consider subscribing to the Carpetology Blog for email updates or via RSS.


Jena Dyco International said...

This is such a major issue. Consumers are totally confused about what they should be doing with their flooring to best deal with their allergies and asthma. Many specialists are telling people to remove their carpets. As mentioned in the blog - there is now so much research to suggest that well maintained carpets provide a much cleaner indoor air quality. The factors that impact on this are:
- vacuuming - I would suggest that if you have someone with allergies or asthma in your house you invest in a good quality upright vacuum cleaner with hepafilters (like Sebo or Windsor)
- professional cleaning every 6 months - not all carpet cleaners were born equal. You want to make sure you use the services of a carpet cleaner who is actually going to clean the soils from your carpet rather than making your carpets looks a bit cleaner. Make sure you hire a carpet cleaner who is IICRC qualified. This way you know that they have been taught to international best practice. You carpet should do the following:
- vacuum
- complete some rotary aggitation
- use hot water extraction (steam cleaning)
If you need your carpets to be dried quickly then ask the carpet cleaner what they can offer you. There are a few options that will speed up drying times.
I hope this is helful information.
Jenny Boymal - Jena Dyco International

Bethany said...

Thanks for your comment. The CRI's Seal of Approval program tests vacuums and lists the most effective ones on its website, carpet-rug.org. SOA also strongly recommends IICRC certification. The evidence is clear: clean, dry carpet does not contribute to asthma/allergy symptoms. We just have to spread the word! Bethany Richmond, CRI Communications Manager

CB Whittemore said...

Jenny and Bethany, thank you both for caring so much about this topic and helping get the word out about best carpet cleaning practices.


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