That new car(pet) smell

That New Car(Pet) Smell

Last updated: December 2018

Due to the general disruption caused in a house when any renovations are going on, I retreated to my aunt’s house for a couple nights while new carpet was being installed in my house. I returned after the living room, dining room, hallway, and my dad’s office had been re-carpeted to see where the progress was at (and when I might want to move back in).

Now, if you’ve had carpeting installed you probably will know what greeted me as soon as I walked in the day the job was completed, but as I learned to crawl and then walk on the carpet formerly in this house, I was blissfully unaware.

Of course, I was greeted by these fumes. There is no other way to describe it. I couldn’t figure out if it was just off-gassing of textiles or what—until my mom said: “oh yeah, the glue.”

Oh yeah, the glue.

Oh yeah, the GLUE. They have to AFFIX CARPET TO THE FLOOR so it doesn’t move! That’s right! *facepalms*. And given my asthma and sensitivity to many chemical things that trigger not only asthma but headaches, this is not a good mix for me. Carpet glue, like other high-quality adhesives, contains enough stuff to require a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), a term I haven’t really thought about since I was in like grade 7 Power & Energy class and first learned what an MSDS is.

Turns out by reading a MSDS for a random carpet adhesive, it’s got a health rating of *2—meaning it’s a moderate chronic health hazard and includes “may cause allergic respiratory reaction” under acute exposure1 (A statement I’m generally unsure of as this would generally be a non-allergic trigger). The ingredients include urea, rosin, “solvent refined paraffinic distillate”, solvent-refined distillates (petroleum), and trisodium phosphate.1 Rosin, which is derived from trees but can alternatively be turned into turpentine2, ranks among the top 10 causes of occupational asthma in the UK.3 Petroleum and related products is another common cause—and trigger—of occupational asthma caused by irritants, due to the ammonia.4,5. Trisodium phosphate, the last ingredient, is “just" a preservative but it is a known respiratory irritant.6

Yeah, no wonder I didn’t want to stick around home too long! I repacked my bag and headed back to my aunt's!

Leaving during renovations

I originally left home during the carpet installation because of the level of disruption in my house at the time—after all, the day they came to deliver the carpet, I was trying to leave to go to work and I could barely escape my front door! However, it proved to be a smart move given my asthma, and the adhesive I hadn’t even contemplated in the equation!

Depending on what kind of renovations are going on in your home, some may be okay to live there though, and others may be better for you to leave if you have asthma. For instance, if using low-VOC paint, I’m able to remain at home when painting is happening, but carpet or flooring installation is another story, as I learned! Your level of tolerance—or reaction in general to—products involved in these projects may vary, but it’s worth having a backup plan if you do find you need to temporarily “move out”!

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