Asthma Study: Allergen Levels No Different in Carpeted vs. Uncarpeted
According to a press release from the Carpet and Rug Institute, a study of inner city children with asthma concludes that positive environmental interventions, such as improved cleaning and the elimination of tobacco smoke, will result in a lessening of the children's asthma-related symptoms and an increase in their symptom-free days. Further, the Inner-City Asthma Study found no difference in the improvement experienced by children who lived in homes with carpet versus children from homes with other types of flooring. In addition, no difference was found in the levels of allergens measured in carpeted homes compared to homes with hard surface floors.
An article describing the study, titled, "Results of a Home-Based Environmental Intervention among Urban Children with Asthma," is published on the website of The New England Journal of Medicine. Based on years of research and independent testing, the carpet industry has long maintained that carpet does not contribute to allergy symptoms or poor indoor air quality. However, this is the first peer-reviewed study confirming the industry's position from a prestigious medical journal.
The study followed 937 children from seven major U.S. cities over the course of a year. Of the participants, more than 50% of the children, aged 5-11 years, had positive skin tests to three or more allergen groups. Other common elements of the group were that they were from families whose incomes were at or close to the poverty level, as well as these factors: Cockroaches were reported in 58% of homes, wall-to-wall carpeting in the child's bedroom in 55%, a smoker in 48%, mice or rats in 40%, and furry pets in 28%.
At the outset of the study, researchers sought to remove carpet from the children's bedrooms, but factors such as rental agreements kept them from it. Still, family members were instructed to remove the carpet from their children's bedrooms wherever possible.
Family members were given HEPA-filter vacuum cleaners and cleaning products and educated about various allergens and how to remove them from the home. Children's beds were encased in dust-mite-blocking covers, and professional pest exterminators were called in where needed.
The study found that children in the intervention group missed fewer days of school, slept through the night more, and made fewer trips to the emergency room. Contrary to researchers' expectations, children with carpet in their bedrooms improved as much and did just as well as children who had hard surface floors.
The interventions also produced marked declines in the measured levels of allergens in the home. Again, in contrast to predictions, no difference in allergen reduction was found between homes with carpets and those without carpeting.
The Inner City Asthma Study was sponsored in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health. According to published disclosure statements, none of the researchers or institutions were affiliated with or sponsored by any representative of the carpet industry.
The findings of the Inner City Asthma Study refute the widely-held notion that patients with asthma and/or allergies must remove their carpet, and according to Carpet and Rug Institute President Werner Braun, the study confirms the carpet industry's assertion that clean, dry carpet is a healthy flooring choice for everyone, including children and adults with asthma and allergies. "CRI's position is based on a body of sponsored as well as independent research, but the Inner City study is significant in that it comes from the medical community," Braun said.
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