When we see these things in newspaper headlines, we sometimes have to double check just to make sure that we're not reading the National Enquirer. In fact, we have been so inundated with such tales from the dark side, that we at The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) have taken to calling them "urban legends." That's because, for the world of us, we can't figure out where these tales were born or how they continue to gather strength.
However, one thing we do know is that when a doctor -- one of the people we trust most -- tells us something, we tend to believe it. Ditto for the people charged with taking care of our children at school. Yet when we confront these folks as to where they get information that would predicate removing carpet and/or suggest it aggravates allergies, we have yet to be pointed to any scientific evidence or medical study. The fact of the matter is it's just not out there.
Nevertheless, lack of hard data hasn't deterred the prescription.
The facts discredit questionable claims
CRI continues to fight the battle on behalf of the industry and, at long last, we think we're starting to make some headway. Thanks to some real scientific data and case studies, we are slowly but surely making progress in dispelling some of these myths and urban legends.
A recent European Health Study was conducted within 38 health centers across 18 different countries, including the United States. The study evaluated the input of almost 20,000 participants. The data collected from this widespread survey showed that the incidents of asthma and allergies in bedrooms with fitted (wall-to-wall) carpet were fewer than those without. A few years ago, Sweden actually banned carpets from public buildings, but again the incidents of asthma and allergies rose significantly in non-carpeted buildings.
All of this lends credence to what we have been saying for quite some time: carpet holds and traps allergens in the fiber, effectively keeping them out of the breathing zone until they can be properly removed with a CRI green-label vacuum. If the allergens are not in the breathing zone, they can't possibly aggravate asthma and allergy sufferers.
Another scientific study, performed at a lab in Florida, drew comparisons between a hard floor covering and a carpet that were equally seeded with particles. A test was then performed to measure the amount of particles in the air after subjects walked an equal amount of time on each flooring type. The difference was substantial and, again, the carpeted floor kept the particles out of the air.
Stopping the myth at the very source
We will continue to develop new data through research such as this.
We have initiated this process by targeting asthma and allergy physicians. And to make sure our message is not only being heard, but is making a significant dent, we have charged our troops here at CRI with moving the needle on perception.
Of course, that means we have to determine exactly what the perception is. To this end, we have contracted with a polling service to survey the asthma and allergy physician group. We'll take those baseline measurements and then go about our business of educating them. We'll do a follow-up survey at the beginning of next year to gauge our progress in this effort.
Our educational process has already begun. We have developed a CD-ROM, which will be sent out to 15,000 doctors, that contains a three-minute video challenging conventional misconceptions about carpet. The CD will also include all of the carpet-related health data we've accumulated so the physicians can read it in black and white. In addition, we've inaugurated an advertising campaign directed at the physicians so they'll be aware of this CD well in advance of receiving it.
We'll repeat this process for some of our other targeted audiences, such as school administrators and facility managers, to convince them that carpet does not and will not foster mold growth.
Accentuating the positives
One of the main reasons why we feel it is necessary to stop the removal and de-selection of carpet in our schools is the fact doing so could have a detrimental effect on student achievement. That's right -- studies have shown there is a correlation between student achievement and carpeted classrooms.
Consider all of the inherent benefits carpet provides the classroom. Carpet not only reduces noises and distractions from within and outside the classroom, it also makes the spoken word more audible to children's ears. When you hear things more clearly, you understand them better.
And then there are the safety issues. The presence of carpet reduces the occurrence of slips and falls. And even when such mishaps do occur, injuries are much less likely to be sustained and, even if they are, their severity definitely will be reduced. Carpet also does wonders for the classroom space, allowing teachers to expand their teaching environment by putting the floor into use as a comfortable sitting area.
CRI has launched a new website at www.carpet-health.org that is a virtual reference library -- a one-stop shop for health information related to carpet. It is an invaluable tool for consumers and advocates.
The new website will include data gleaned through the European study and the dermal transfer study, plus information explaining why mold will not grow on clean, dry synthetic carpet. (Even wet, dirty carpet takes longer to sustain mold growth than most other surfaces.) Also, we have put together a sales booklet that includes much of this same information and more to aid our members' sales forces as they deal with the everyday questions about carpet and its health-related effects. The salespeople, we believe, are the "eyes and ears" of the industry. It is imperative that we utilize these people and provide them with all the necessary information.
Data shows that carpet is easier and less costly to maintain than alternative flooring products, and now we are getting that information into the right hands. We can tell people that carpet does not have a VOC problem because we have the evidence to back up the claim.
The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), a voluntary industry- and government-led organization charged with diverting waste from landfills, is about to put out its first numbers as we move to realize the goal of zero landfill waste. The industry’s sustainability report is about to embark on its third year, and the news we gather from our members in terms of environmental conservation, social and economic views continues to paint the proper picture.
CRI has an active hand in international government and trade issues, as well as Georgia state legislation and regulation. In addition, CRI continues to promote the cost of business-to-business transactions with the B2B standard.