If you’re thinking of installing new carpeting in your home this year, moving into one of the many new k b homes, or just exploring ways to make your dream home construction more environmentally sustainable and health conscience, then you’ll most likely run into carpeting labeled “Low-VOC.” We’re going to give you a quick rundown on what that means and why you really need to ensure that the carpet you purchase qualifies for that description.
What is VOC?
The acronym VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. Organic sounds good, right? Well, not so much in this instance. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that can enter the air as a gas. You’ve probably run into them before: gasoline, nail polish, pine-scented cleaners, orange oil solvents, refrigerant, glue, plywood and pressboard, and carpet and upholstery. That “new” car smell that everyone loves so much? Yeah, that’s actually the odor of VOCs you’re breathing in.
So, what is the concern with VOCs?
Chemicals enter the body through three major pathways: touching, swallowing, and breathing. The biggest concern with VOCs is the overall amount an individual breathes in. A certain “background” level of VOCs is to be expected, and some of them we put in the air ourselves; air fresheners, cleaning and polishing agents. The major concern with some VOC occurrences is the amount of VOC released at once. For this reason, carpet and wood floor installations, painting, and cabinet refinishing get hefty warnings.
Exposure to volatile organic compounds can result in nose and throat discomfort, nausea, allergic skin reactions, headache, uncomfortable breathing, fatigue and dizziness.
Why Low-VOC Matters
When a homeowner has new carpeting installed they’ll notice that powerful “new” odor most strongly in the first few weeks after installation, after which it will gradually diminish. This smell comes from a specific chemical called 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PCH). This VOC is a byproduct of a latex binder used to keep the tufts of your carpeting secure.
By choosing a Low-VOC carpet a homeowner is making a healthier choice for themselves as well as for the environment. Here are some things you can do to ensure you’re getting a Low-VOC carpet in your home.
- Look for home builders that use Low-VOC carpets as standard practice in their construction.
- Look for a Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Indoor Air Quality testing information.
- Air out the carpet before installing. Your carpet supplier may be able to do this prior to delivery.
- Look for carpet pads that do NOT use styrene butadiene rubber. Look for felt pads instead.
- If your carpet must be glued down use low-emitting, nonsolvent adhesives only.
- Research proper carpet cleaning methods for your specific carpeting choice and give it a thorough cleaning.