Toxic Fumes From Carpets

Written by ashley black
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Toxic Fumes From Carpets
Toxic fumes given off by carpets can be especially harmful to young children. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Have you ever wondered why you're supposed to stay off new carpets during installation and for at least a few days after? New carpets are known to give off toxic fumes especially concentrated before carpet installation. These fumes can be detrimental to your health. Though fumes are at their highest concentration at installation, they linger for months and continue to affect your health.

Volatile Organic Compounds

New carpets contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are hazardous substances that can have a detrimental effect on human health. Some VOCs found in new carpets include formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and acetone. Several VOCs in new carpets have been added to the Environmental Protection Agency's Extremely Hazardous Substances list.


Many carpets contain known carcinogens, including p-Dichlorobenzene. Carcinogens have been shown to be a factor in the cause of cancer and can also produce fetal abnormalities in test animals. Carcinogens are known to cause hallucinations, respiratory illness and nerve damage in humans.


4-phenylcyclohexene, or 4-PC, is a chemical used in the latex backing of most carpets in the United States. 4-PC is the source of the "new carpet smell" given off by freshly installed carpets. This toxin has been associated with eye, nose and upper respiratory problems. 4-PC continues to give off fumes from carpets for months or even years after installation.

Chemical Combinations

Many different chemicals go into carpet production. Some examples of possibly dangerous substances contained in new carpets are adhesives, flame retardants, stain protectors and even artificial dyes. Most carpets still contain a mix of chemicals when they are installed in your home. Mixing chemicals can create new chemicals that give off toxic fumes. These fumes can be harmful to your health.

Older Carpets

Older carpets can also contain toxins. By the time carpets have aged, most of the VOCs have dissipated. However, an older carpet may have been manufactured before certain chemicals were banned in carpet use. Your older carpet may well contain these toxic chemicals.

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