Carpets are often blamed for aggravating health conditions such as allergies and asthma in indoor environments. Constant scaremongering has created a bad reputation for the carpet industry with fibre-based floorcoverings branded as the enemy. Are these concerns justified?

This article aims to bust a few myths about the use of carpets in interior spaces through facts that prove they are actually good for you.

Today, evidence and research point to the many health and psychological benefits provided by carpet-covered spaces to their users. If anything, carpets have the ability to soothe the senses and positively impact our mental and physical health.

A 2005 study commissioned by the DAAB (The German Allergy & Asthma Society) demolished claims that carpets contributed to health issues in allergy sufferers. The German study found that smooth flooring increased the risk of fine dust load in indoor spaces when compared to rooms with wall-to-wall carpeting. The carpeted room, in fact, was able to significantly minimise the health risks, especially in asthma and allergy patients.

Another study conducted in New Jersey, USA involving 4,634 school-going children concluded that carpeting provided protection against allergies and asthma. Carpets in the bedrooms implied lower absenteeism due to illness and less asthma medication.

In a much larger survey by the European Community Respiratory Health Service Study covering 19,000 people from 18 countries including Australia, New Zealand, India, and the United States of America, it was found that people with sensitivity to dust mites actually responded better when carpets were used in the room.

How are carpets advantageous to people with sensitivities?

The idea that carpets are unhealthy comes from the common misconception that carpets collect dust and other ultrafine particulate matter, which can trigger allergy symptoms in occupants. Even a small breeze is sufficient to stir and blow up dust, hair or particulates from the floor into the air where the allergens can be inhaled by anyone in the room, leading to respiratory problems and discomfort.

However, contrary to popular belief, carpet fibres can trap these allergens and dust particles to ensure they are not released into the air so easily, unlike hard flooring, where the dust particulates are easily disturbed through any movement in the space. A sensible maintenance program for carpets will ensure the trapped allergens and dust mites are permanently removed using a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner. Carpeted flooring mitigates allergy or asthma attacks brought on by dust, and some carpets are far more effective than others in this respect.

Physical health benefits

According to the Carpet Institute of Australia, carpets also emit lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), thanks to the production process where they are passed through a finishing oven that removes most of the solvents and volatile chemicals, leaving the final product with low VOC content. Emissions are significantly lower when compared to most other building materials used indoors. Additionally, by absorbing VOCs like formaldehyde, carpets help users breathe easy while also improving indoor air quality.

Carpets in homes and public spaces also keep people safe, protecting them against slips and falls, which are among Australia’s biggest and most expensive public health problems. The Building Code of Australia has developed specific slip resistance classifications for carpets, especially for stairs and surfaces of ramps and landings.

Carpets influence the thermal performance of indoor spaces, helping reduce reliance on air conditioning and heating systems. Plush carpet piles paired with dense underlays absorb and trap heat, keeping spaces warm in winter and cool in summer.

Psychological benefits

Carpets have a positive effect on a person’s frame of mind with the feeling of softness and padded flooring underfoot reducing stress. Forty-two people were asked to walk on wooden flooring and carpeting for 10 minutes each as part of a study. Walking on the carpeted floor induced lesser stress than the wooden floor, making a case for carpeting in indoor spaces.

Carpets deliver acoustic benefits too, with their noise attenuation and soundproofing qualities helping reduce stress and improve productivity, and, in aged care facilities, impacting patient health positively.

Invest in non-toxic, breathable, and sustainable indoor environments. Make a wellness choice for your indoor spaces with quality carpeting solutions from the Gibbon Group.

Image: Contrary to popular belief, the fibres in carpets like Tretford roll (pictured) are able to trap these allergens and dust.