Carpet-Related Health Hazards (And How To Avoid Them)

A gorgeous carpet may serve as the superb aesthetic complement to your living room, but it can also present you with potential health hazards. Recognizing these threats in advance will allow you to take the necessary actions to keep your family and visitors safe. Here are some of the issues you need to be aware of -- and how you can keep those dangers at bay.

Fire Risks from Electrical Cords

You may not like the messy look of electrical cords criss-crossing the room or gathering in ugly masses on top of your lovely carpet. You may be tempted to solve this unsightly issue the easy way by running the cords underneath the carpeting or sandwiching them between the carpet and a rug. Be warned, however, that this solution may lead to another, much graver problem -- a house fire. An unventilated cord can't shed waste heat, so it just gets hotter and hotter until the carpet ignites. Cables that are walked on by unsuspecting occupants for long periods of time may also fray, losing their protective insulation. 

Fortunately, there are several methods for tucking those cords away from your carpet without creating a fire hazard. For instance, you can run the cables along the baseboards inside plastic holders called raceways. You can use a cord protector designed to run along the floor, containing and concealing the cords while also protecting them against foot traffic.

Particle Accumulation and Respiratory Problems

Dust, dander and pollen naturally drift through the air in most homes, eventually landing on the floor. This can be a significant problem for anyone in your home who struggles with asthma or respiratory allergies. Dander is actually dead skin cells from humans and pets; it's also a prime food source for dust mites, which can trigger allergic reactions in their own right. 

Keeping these troublesome particles out of your carpet -- and your lungs -- requires several home care measures. Start by vacuuming regularly, making sure to use a small-bore vacuum bag each time so the allergens can't escape. Replace your air conditioning filters frequently so they can do their job of blocking the passage of particles from ducts or other rooms. Consider having the ductwork inspected to see whether it requires professional cleaning.

A Breeding Ground for Pests

The dense collection of fibers that make up a typical carpet can collect living beings as well as particles. Fleas can easily jump from your pet's body to your carpet and back again, often leaving their eggs, pupae and larvae behind to establish a genuine infestation. Ticks tend to stick to your pet, but they may drop thousands of eggs, some of which can land in your carpet. The bites of these creatures can cause skin reactions, while the pests themselves can transmit serious diseases. Vacuum your carpet regularly, throwing out the bag immediately after every cleaning, and put your pet on preventative medication to keep pests away.

Bed bugs, the scourge of hotel rooms, can cause health issues of their own, from allergic reactions and secondary infection of the bite wounds to sleeplessness and stress. Despite the name, bed bugs don't just live in your bed; they can also take up residence in your carpeting. An ordinary vacuum cleaner or carpet cleaning machine won't rid you of these durable creatures. Instead, you'll need to either hire an professional exterminator or get your hands on a steam cleaner that can expose the bed bugs to temperatures of 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tripping Hazards from Wrinkles

Sooner or later, a carpet is likely to come loose in one spot and/or become stretched from years of foot traffic. These alterations can cause lumps or wrinkles to form. A wrinkled carpet is more than just an eyesore -- it also happens to be a tripping hazard, especially in a dark-colored carpet what may not show wrinkles readily under normal lighting. If someone's foot catches in the material, you could be looking at a serious injury.

The good news is that wrinkles can be dealt with by re-stretching the carpet. It's easiest simply to lave this task to a carpet installation professional who already has the tools and know-how to stretch the carpet evenly in all directions, cut away any extra material and secure the edges. If a carpet shows wrinkles even though it's relatively new, the fabric may have had insufficient time to warm up or cool down to the ambient indoor temperature before the carpet installation was performed -- which means that your warranty may entitle you to a free re-installation.

Take these issues and responses under advisement. Proper care and good cleaning habits will let you get more enjoyment out of your carpet -- with the reassurance that your health and your home aren't at odds with each other. 

For more information and options, talk with a professional carpet company, such as Carpet Depot Inc.