RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 01/08/01
CLAMOUR AGAINST CARPETS GROWS STRONGER
One year after the launch of the Healthy Flooring
Network  carpets are firmly recognised as a risk factor in health
problems including asthma and allergies. With more and more writers
and health specialists focussing on the adverse impacts of indoor
allergens, HFN today calls on consumers to enter the debate by sharing
their carpet experiences with others through the HFN web-site.
Already thousands of concerned consumers have visited
the site (over 26,000 in June alone) or phoned HFN. "People who
want a healthy home are thinking twice about carpets," says Helen
Lynn, HFN spokesperson and Health Coordinator for the Women's Environmental
One year ago carpets were rarely mentioned in reports
about asthma. Today the public is repeatedly advised to either clean
carpets rigorously or to remove them. Fitted carpets have been dubbed
"the toxic sponge" by national newspapers .
Now HFN invites the public to have their say. The
organisation will publish stories about carpets and PVC (vinyl)
on its web-site (www.healthyflooring.org). If you feel carpets or
vinyl have had negative impacts on your or your family's health;
if you've reacted to the chemical smell of new carpet or vinyl;
if you've changed to smooth floors and noticed a positive difference
- HFN wants to hear from you.
Following the initial revelations from HFN that carpets
could be damaging to health (July 2000) a spate of reports from
other researchers has added to the increasing body of evidence.
On July 21 (the Lancet) researchers at the Manchester
Asthma and Allergy Study Group , reported that "environmental
manipulation" - including removing carpets in infants bedrooms -
reduced symptoms of asthma and allergy in high risk babies. ·
In Seattle, Washington, environmental engineer John
Roberts, had carpets analysed by independent laboratories. In May
the New Scientist reported his findings: "high concentrations of
heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury, polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs), pesticides and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs)."
Some of these are toxins that can cause cancer. ·
Last year the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
studied pesticides in fitted carpets. In one case a square metre
of carpet contained more than a gram of permethrin, an ingredient
found in household insect sprays, but also found in a sample analysed
for HFN as an ingredient added to carpets to kill dust mites .
Writing about the EPA study in the mass market women's
magazine, Woman's Own, ITN's consumer expert, Chris Choi, said "The
Carpet and Rug Institute...says there's no link to adverse human
health effects. In my opinion, though, carpet manufacturers are
going to have to work a lot harder. They need to persuade us that
we can feel confident with their flooring when so few of us feel
comfortable around chemicals." ·
This sentiment was previously expressed from within
the flooring industry. In May, Alan Bakalor, Editor of CFJ Contract
Flooring Journal wrote "The environment is probably the most important
issue for the carpet industry today." "Naked ladies photographed
on plush carpets  don't answer client and consumer concerns about
environmental issues. That's where British carpet manufacturers
must become proactive or face losing even more market share." ·
But the Carpet Foundation is still sticking its head
in the sand. Last month, reported The Kidderminster Shuttle newspaper,
the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint about
Carpet Foundation advertisements implying that it was an undisputed
scientific fact that there was no link between carpet and asthma.
One of the ads was in "Living Allergy Free" - the magazine of the
British Allergy Association - but after the ASA ruling, the Carpet
Foundation was told not to repeat the claims. ·
By contrast, architects in Scotland have taken up
the challenge. Edinburgh based Gaia Architects are finalising plans
for the first experimental "asthma free home" to be built in Perth
later this year. Among other things, carpets will be replaced with
natural substances, and vinyl wallpaper will be replaced with organic
paint. The initiative has been welcomed by the National Asthma Campaign:
"Making the home environment asthma-friendly is an important part
in making sure asthma is well controlled," they said, including
"minimising the use of soft furnishings." ·
Health has now become firmly linked to our homes.
Last year The Independent on Sunday reported "The home is the latest
area of our lives where health has become a selling point." Now
the Builders Merchants Journal report (June 2001) that Timber laminate
flooring is a runaway success. It says "The Healthy Flooring Network
is presenting a very strong case to the consumer who wants a handsome
floor but who also wants to avoid the dust mite and pet allergens
…" Laminate flooring sales are projected to more than double on
1998 sales by the year 2003, while solid wood flooring sales grew
from 1998 to 2000 by 3 times the rate of the UK floor coverings
market as a whole. 
During the last year HFN has targeted schools, local
authorities, politicians, retailers and property developers to alert
them to the dangers of carpets, as well as PVC (vinyl) floors. Now
that the message has been widely spread HFN invites the public to
voice its views.
PLEASE PUBLISH THE HFN E-MAIL ADDRESS SO THAT ANYONE
CONCERNED ABOUT HEALTH IN THEIR HOME CAN LET US HAVE THEIR VIEW:
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please call HFN - 020 7481 9004.
1. HFN is an alliance of organisations and individuals concerned
about health, asthma and allergies. Founder members include the
Women's Environmental Network and Action Against Allergy. HFN was
launched in July 2000 with the publication of a report "Allergic
Diseases and the Indoor Environment," by Dr. Jill Warner, Senior
Lecturer in Allergy and Immunology at the University of Southampton.
2. Daily Mail, 4th May 2001 - "The Toxic Sponge in your home - 90%
of our homes are carpeted and can be harbouring pollution levels
50 times higher than outdoors"; Daily Telegraph, 3rd May 2001- "According
to a report published today, carpets act like toxic sponges, sucking
up dangerous amounts of poisons…"
3. National Asthma Campaign Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study
Group. As well as removing the carpets they covered mattresses,
washed soft toys and bed-linen weekly and applied benzyl benzoate
to carpets and furnishings throughout the house.
4. A report "Poison Underfoot" released jointly by HFN and Greenpeace
revealed high concentrations of chemicals in carpets and PVC (vinyl)
flooring. See www.healthyflooring.org
5. Reference to a British Carpet Foundation advertising campaign.
6. Some laminate flooring is bonded together with formaldehyde resin
which can emit formaldehyde gas at room temperature. HFN recommends
asking for low or zero emitting boards. A complete range of flooring
is listed in its Guide to Healthy Flooring available from HFN, c/o
WEN, PO Box 30626, London E1. Tel: 0207 481 9004.