Carpet Cleaning and Indoor Air Quality
Without question, people spend the majority of their time indoors.
The indoor air quality of their workplace or home is not at the fore front of most people’s minds.
Should it be?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution is two to five times more polluted than the outside air.
In fact, it can contain as much as one hundred times the amount of pollutants as found in the air outside.
Makes you wonder, what are you breathing?
Indoor air pollution is creating a greater health risk than the exposure to outdoor air pollution.
According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental risks to public health.
According to the World Health Organization, 30 percent of all buildings pose a serious health hazard due to indoor air pollution.
The question is why and what can be done about it?
Over the past several decades, our exposure to indoor air pollutants has increased due to a variety of factors.
First, due to high energy costs we are constructing more tightly sealed buildings. The flip side to this greater energy efficiency is reduced ventilation rates.
Rather than opening windows to allow an inside/outside air exchange, the ventilation is controlled by a mechanical heating and cooling system.
Any biological contamination (mold, fungi, viruses, bacteria growth) can be easily spread through the ventilation system.
An analogy is an airplane flight. When someone in the plane coughs or sneezes, the germs can get into the ventilation system and affect everyone on board.
Second, we live in a plastic based, chemically infused society. The use of synthetic building materials and furnishings, office equipment, pesticides, household and personal care products, as well as cleaning products, all contribute to indoor air pollution by releasing volatile organic compounds into the air.
These volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) can aggravate allergies, asthma, and other chemical sensitivities. Related to VOC’s are gas phase organics such as tobacco smoke, outdoor air pollution, carbon monoxide from motor vehicle traffic, and radon gas all of which can contribute to indoor air pollution.
Health Canada reports that over ten million Canadians suffer from allergies, and the United States has over fifty-five millions allergy suffers.
We can all agree indoor air pollution and the resulting poor indoor air quality is a serious health problem but what does it have to do with carpet cleaning? Isn’t carpeting part of the problem? Well, yes and no.
Carpet acts like a giant filter which traps and collects all types of indoor air pollutants thus preventing these trapped pollutants from returning to the breathing zone. In the average home more than 90% of the pollutants are in the carpet, which is a good thing because they are not up in air for us to breath.
Few people are aware that a carpet is a secret reservoir of allergens. They trap dust, dirt, pet dander, moisture, and pests, even when vacuumed regularly. Regular through vacuuming with a high quality “Hepa Filter” vacuums cannot be over stated. Check out the Carpet Rug Institutes web site for recommended vacuums.
Eventually the carpet gets filled with dry soil as well as air borne pollutants and stops working efficiently, much like your furnace filter.
Frequent carpet cleaning can improve your indoor air quality by removing these harmful pollutants. Shaw Carpets the “World’s Largest Carpet Manufacturer” recommends carpets be cleaned at least every 18 – 24 months and light coloured carpets every 12 months. If it’s neglected, it can turn into a breeding ground for biological contaminants and pollutants.
Carpet cleaning can provide a greater level of acceptable indoor air quality by reducing biological contaminants, gas phase organics and the microscopic particles that we breathe.
In fact, the EPA, the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI), and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) Carpet Cleaning Standards S100 all state carpeting should be cleaned first for health and then appearance.
Having your carpet regularly cleaned does more than improve the appearance of the carpet. It provides you, your employees, and your customers a safer and healthier indoor environment.
The following caveat cannot be overstated.
The benefit produced by cleaning the carpet is only as good as the carpet cleaning product being utilized.
In other words, how beneficial can the carpet cleaning be if the carpet cleaning product (or any other cleaning product for that matter) contributes to indoor air pollution from VOC’s released or residues left behind?
Many carpet cleaners are formulated for the appearance (results) achieved and little or no consideration for the indoor air quality or the safety of the user or building occupants.
Is it any wonder Worker Compensation claims are on the rise or that we or our children are experiencing asthma or other chemical sensitivities due to indoor air pollution in the workplace, school or home?
Personal injuries caused from indoor air pollution fit into the following two categories:
- Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), a situation in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building but no specific illness or cause can be identified. Most of the complainants report relief soon after leaving the building.
- Building Related Illness (BRI), symptoms of a diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants. Unlike sick building syndrome, the symptoms of BRI often remain long after the affected person leaves the building.