FLOODING - A CHANCE TO CREATE A HEALTHIER HOME

SAYS HEALTHY FLOORING NETWORK

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PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 23/11/00

If anything good can come out of recent flooding it could be that it creates an opportunity for thousands of homeowners to throw out their carpets. Today, The Healthy Flooring Network (HFN), called on the Government to make funds available to replace sodden carpets with healthier smooth flooring. "Replacing carpets with smooth alternatives could not only make thousands of homes into healthier indoor environments but certain types of smooth flooring could be less susceptible to flood damage," said Helen Lynn, spokesperson for HFN and Health Co-ordinator for WEN,

"Any funding available from Government to help people in refitting their homes with healthy flooring could also go some way to offsetting the massive costs of asthma and allergic diseases to the National Health Service. In Europe alone the combined direct and indirect costs of allergic disease amount to an estimated 18 billion pounds per year."

In July this year HFN launched a campaign to highlight health problems associated with fitted carpets and PVC flooring. A network of organisations concerned about health and the environment, HFN focussed on the increased risks of health problems such as asthma and allergies, associated with house dust mites, pet allergens and toxic pollutants accumulating in fitted carpets. A report, "Allergic Diseases and the Indoor Environment," by Dr. Jill Warner, Senior Lecturer in Allergy and Immunology at the University of Southampton, for the first time specifically highlighted allergens in fitted carpets as potential triggers of allergic disease. "The network called for homeowners to rethink their flooring and reject fitted carpets for the sake of their and their children's health.

Now HFN re-iterates that call in the wake of devastating flooding which will force thousands of homeowners to think about new kinds of flooring. "The flooding has been a heartbreaking disaster for everyone affected by it but out of the misery can at least come something positive. Thousands will now be thinking about re-flooring their homes and can choose to go for healthier options than carpets and PVC," said Helen Lynn, HFN spokesperson and Health Co-ordinator for the Women's Environmental Network (WEN).

She called on insurance companies to help replace carpets. "Where more flood resistant flooring is required insurance companies should not hesitate to cover the additional costs associated with tiles or stone flooring as these will be less likely to need replacing in the future."

Trying to keep carpets that have become wet could be a greater health risk since moulds can form which are also a known trigger for symptoms of asthma and allergy. Says the report "Allergic Diseases and the Indoor Environment," "the three major sources of indoor allergens associated with sensitisation and subsequent allergic disease are house dust mites, pets and moulds."

But PVC or vinyl flooring - already a popular alternative to carpets - is also not a good choice for health. Today HFN warned that PVC flooring contains chemicals that could affect health. One Nordic study has linked exposure to the chemicals used to soften PVC to inflammation of the airways and increased risk of asthma. Hundreds of cities and communities throughout Europe, the USA and Japan are restricting the use of PVC in buildings because of environmental and health concerns.

Today HFN urges people thinking about re-flooring their homes to avoid fitted carpets and PVC or vinyl by choosing healthier alternatives such as lino, tiling, stone floors, and wooden floors. In particular, choices such as tiles and stone floors are less susceptible to flood damage, and loose rugs are more easily moved out of the way of flood water.

For more information please contact Helen Lynn - Tel: 0207 481 9004.

Editors Notes:

  • Organisations which have signed on to the aims of The Healthy Flooring Network include: The Women's Environmental Network; Action Against Allergy; National Eczema Society; Pesticide Action Network UK; Friends of the Earth UK; Food & Chemical Allergy Association; British Society for Allergy, Environmental and Nutritional Medicine; The Migraine Action Association; Hyperactive Children's Support Group; The Association of Environmentally Conscious Building; Dr. Vyvyan Howard - Infant and Foetal Toxicology University of Liverpool; Dr Jill Warner - University of Southampton Southampton General Hospital; Breakspear Hospital; Hazards Magazine; The London Hazards Centre.
  • 98% of British households have fitted carpets compared with 16% in France and 2% in Italy.
  • Britain has the world's worst record of asthma and allergies. One in five children now suffer asthma in the UK. Infants are most vulnerable since early exposure to allergens from pets and dust mites can sensitise them, making them more susceptible to asthma and allergies in later life.
  • Up to 100,000 mites can live in one square metre of carpet, and their droppings build up steadily as the carpet gets older. Pet allergens - the second most important cause of domestic allergy - stick to carpets and other soft furnishings and are spread from house to house on the clothes of pet owners.
  • Research has shown that only the removal of carpets was able to cut allergen loads to 10%, a level which could reduce asthma symptoms as well as cutting the risk of developing sensitivity. One report showed that removing fitted carpets reduced the risk of asthma and allergies by up to 14 times.
  • A guide to healthy flooring alternatives can be found on the HFN website - http://www.healthyflooring.org or obtained from HFN, PO Box 30626, London E1 1TZ.