Does carpet cause indoor air quality (IAQ) problems in schools?
Carpet use in schools provides a decrease in noise, falls, and injuries. IAQ problems can be encountered with carpet and many other materials if the school has any type of water intrusion or moisture problem, such as a leaky roof. If carpeting remains damp, it can become a primary source for microbial growth, which frequently results in adverse health effects. Carpet and other furnishings that become significantly water damaged should be removed and discarded or steam cleaned and thoroughly dried before reinstallation.
New carpet systems (including adhesives used to adhere face fibers to backing materials, carpet cushion, and the adhesives often used to install carpets) will off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for a period of time after being installed. These emissions can be significantly reduced, although not completely eliminated, in the first 72 hours through the use of proper ventilation techniques. With any floor covering system, low VOCs emission products should be selected and used in school applications.
Carpet also acts as a reservoir for dust, dirt, pollen, mold spores, pesticides, and other materials which may originate indoors or be brought into the indoor environment from outside. If kept very clean from the time it is installed, carpet can trap a significant amount of particles, which can be removed through regular and effective vacuuming. However, inadequate maintenance can allow large quantities of dust and debris to build up in carpet. Some studies indicate that poorly maintained carpet can release significant quantities of particles into the air during the course of daily activity. In addition, young children may play on carpet where they may be more likely to come into contact with contaminants that have not been properly removed through regular and effective vacuuming.