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      Do Carpets Impair Indoor Air Quality and Cause Adverse Health Outcomes: A Review

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          Several earlier studies have shown the presence of more dust and allergens in carpets compared with non-carpeted floors. At the same time, adverse effects of carpeted floors on perceived indoor air quality as well as worsening of symptoms in individuals with asthma and allergies were reported. Avoiding extensive carpet use in offices, schools, kindergartens and bedrooms has therefore been recommended by several health authorities. More recently, carpet producers have argued that former assessments were obsolete and that modern rugs are unproblematic, even for those with asthma and allergies. To investigate whether the recommendation to be cautious with the use of carpets is still valid, or whether there are new data supporting that carpet flooring do not present a problem for indoor air quality and health, we have reviewed the literature on this matter. We have not found updated peer reviewed evidence that carpeted floor is unproblematic for the indoor environment. On the contrary, also more recent data support that carpets may act as a repository for pollutants which may become resuspended upon activity in the carpeted area. Also, the use of carpets is still linked to perception of reduced indoor air quality as well as adverse health effects as previously reported. To our knowledge, there are no publications that report on deposition of pollutants and adverse health outcomes associated with modern rugs. However, due to the three-dimensional structure of carpets, any carpet will to some extent act like a sink. Thus, continued caution should still be exercised when considering the use of wall-to-wall carpeted floors in schools, kindergartens and offices, as well as in children’s bedrooms unless special needs indicate that carpets are preferable.

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          Most cited references 48

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          To investigate the transmission of influenza viruses via hands and environmental surfaces, the survival of laboratory-grown influenza A and influenza B viruses on various surfaces was studied. Both influenza A and B viruses survived for 24-48 hr on hard, nonporous surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic but survived for less than 8-12 hr on cloth, paper, and tissues. Measurable quantities of influenza A virus were transferred from stainless steel surfaces to hands for 24 hr and from tissues to hands for up to 15 min. Virus survived on hands for up to 5 min after transfer from the environmental surfaces. These observations suggest that the transmission of virus from donors who are shedding large amounts could occur for 2-8 hr via stainless steel surfaces and for a few minutes via paper tissues. Thus, under conditions of heavy environmental contamination, the transmission of influenza virus via fomites may be possible.
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            The effects of outdoor air supply rate in an office on perceived air quality, sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms and productivity.

            Perceived air quality, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) symptoms and productivity were studied in a normally furnished office space (108 m3) ventilated with an outdoor airflow of 3, 10 or 30 L/s per person, corresponding to an air change rate of 0.6, 2 or 6 h-1. The temperature of 22 degrees C, the relative humidity of 40% and all other environmental parameters remained unchanged. Five groups of six female subjects were each exposed to the three ventilation rates, one group and one ventilation rate at a time. Each exposure lasted 4.6 h and took place in the afternoon. Subjects were unaware of the intervention and remained thermally neutral by adjusting their clothing. They assessed perceived air quality and SBS symptoms at intervals, and performed simulated normal office work. Increasing ventilation decreased the percentage of subjects dissatisfied with the air quality (P < 0.002) and the intensity of odour (P < 0.02), and increased the perceived freshness of air (P < 0.05). It also decreased the sensation of dryness of mouth and throat (P < 0.0006), eased difficulty in thinking clearly (P < 0.001) and made subjects feel generally better (P < 0.0001). The performance of four simulated office tasks improved monotonically with increasing ventilation rates, and the effect reached formal significance in the case of text-typing (P < 0.03). For each two-fold increase in ventilation rate, performance improved on average by 1.7%. This study shows the benefits for health, comfort and productivity of ventilation at rates well above the minimum levels prescribed in existing standards and guidelines. It confirms the results of a previous study in the same office when the indoor air quality was improved by decreasing the pollution load while the ventilation remained unchanged.
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              A protracted outbreak of Norwalk-like virus (NLV)-associated gastroenteritis occurred in a large hotel in North-West England between January and May 1996. We investigated the pattern of environmental contamination with NLV in the hotel during and after the outbreak. In the ninth week, 144 environmental swabs taken from around the hotel were tested for NLV by nested RT-PCR. The sites were categorized according to the likelihood of direct contamination with vomit/faeces. The highest proportion of positive samples were detected in directly contaminated carpets, but amplicons were detected in sites above 1.5 m which are unlikely to have been contaminated directly. The trend in positivity of different sites paralleled the diminishing likelihood of direct contamination. A second environmental investigation of the same sites 5 months after the outbreak had finished were all negative by RT-PCR. This study demonstrates for the first time the extent of environmental contamination that may occur during a large NLV outbreak.

                Author and article information

                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                23 January 2018
                February 2018
                : 15
                : 2
                [1 ]Domain of Infection Control and Environmental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, P.O. Box 4404 Nydalen, N-0403 Oslo, Norway; Johan.Ovrevik@ (J.Ø.); PerE.Schwarze@ (P.E.S.); JanKenneth.Hongslo@ (J.K.H.)
                [2 ]SINTEF Building and Infrastructure, Pb 124 Blindern, 0314 Oslo, Norway; Steinar.Nilsen@
                [3 ]The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, P.O. Box 4720 Sluppen, 7468 Trondheim, Norway; Jan.Bakke@
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: rune.becher@
                © 2018 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


                Public health

                carpets, indoor air quality, health impact


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