If you've ever walked into a room with brand new carpet, you know that is has a distinct smell. Part of the cause is the presence chemicals often used to make the synthetic materials that make up carpet. Many types of rugs are made in a similar way with these chemicals. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are one such chemical. Some rugs are sprayed with mothproofing chemicals, and the undersides of many rugs are treated with chemicals too. Even rugs that don't give off an odor can still be harmful. Over time these chemicals may cause health problems, including respiratory problems and cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Safe Rug Materials
You would probably much rather smell the sweet scent of your child when you go into her room, rather than be knocked out by the overwhelming smell of her rug. Certain materials are non-toxic and are effective options when it comes to finding a safe rug. Look for a natural fiber when shopping for a floor rug for your toddler or preschooler's room. Wool, sisal and coir are possibilities. Keep in mind, though, that some are sprayed with a chemical to prevent moths from eating the material. Avoid these items because this spray is highly toxic, according to the Healthy Home Plans website.
Safe Rug Backing
Many rugs are backed with synthetic materials that contain dangerous chemicals. However, you do have options that are non-toxic. Rubber and frothed polyurethane are two choices that are generally safe and make a potential choice for a child's bedroom. The House Logic website suggests natural fibers, such as felt, horsehair, jute and 100 percent sheep's wool are other ones to look for. Make you check to ensure that the backing materials haven't been treated with any chemicals to keep bugs away.
Where to Shop
Some home improvement stores sell non-toxic rugs, but a specialty store that sells natural materials is an alternative if you're having trouble finding what you're looking for. Don't be afraid to ask questions before making your choice, and read any information included with the rug before buying it. The Green and Healthy Info website suggests looking for a rug with the Green Label Plus certification.
Good selections for nontoxic rugs for your child's bedroom (or any other rooms he frequents) include cotton, wool, jute, sisal, bamboo and hemp. Wool is a good choice because wool rugs are durable, repel liquids and resist flames. Hemp is also a good choice for rugs, as hemp is durable and resists mildew. Sisal is a natural, nontoxic choice and sisal rugs are available in different colors and textures.
Dyes and Additives
If a rug is colored, make sure the dye is vegetable-based instead of a synthetic dye, warns the U.S. Green Building Council Green Home Guide. Many carpets and rugs feature special stain repellent treatments, flame retardants and insect pesticides and these may contain toxic chemicals. It is important that you find out about potential additives that may have been sprayed on the rug or if the rug has been coated so that you can choose a rug without chemical additives.
Foam backings can contain toxic chemicals, which can emit toxins into the room, according to the Healthy Child Healthy World website. Instead of choosing a rug that has a foam backing, choose one that has a backing made from natural latex. Synthetic latex is petroleum-based, but natural latex is made from the rubber plant, according to the Healthy Child Healthy World website. Also, check the rug to determine if the backing was stitched or if it was glued to the rug. Stitching is a better choice than glue. If the backing was glued to the rug, check the type of glue to insure the glue was made from a low- or no VOC (volatile organic compound.) Glues made from VOCs release chemicals, solvents and aerosols into the air, according to the National Library of Medicine Tox Town website.
If you’re seriously thinking of buying a specific rug, check to see that it has been certified. Carpets with the Green Label Plus Certification have passed extensive independent laboratory testing to make sure the carpets don’t emit common toxic chemicals into the environment, according to organic designer Dawn Michael, writing for the Green and Healthy Info website. Common chemicals include formaldehyde, acetone, benzene and styrene. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provides information about indoor air pollution as a result of chemicals and VOCs.