Dealing with Carpets
Last updated: February 2023
Not everyone can afford to buy a house or flat to their own exact specifications; many people, like myself, have to rent. Depending on the area and the country, it also can be rather difficult to find an apartment, house, or flat with hardwood or linoleum floors throughout. In the USA and the UK, most rental units (and hotels) have carpets. In Norway, France, and Switzerland, hardwood floors are the norm.
The solution I found for my current UK apartment is to buy large 2mm-thick polypropylene sheets (the type of plastic is important) and to cover the carpets, using Kapton tape at the edges to seal the gaps. Kapton tape is easy to remove when moving. I've been living in this apartment (flat) for 5 years now.
Carpets and asthma
I also have a note based on the Asthma.net article about carpets. As a scientist myself, I would be very cautious about generalizations of this sort: "in fact, if everyone is thinking the same thing, then something is probably wrong." Surely, nobody doubts the existence of gravity and the existence of laws of physics, and "everybody" is thinking mostly the same thing.
The surface area of a carpet, regardless of the materials, is hundreds, perhaps thousand-folds higher, per square foot of floor area, than the surface area of hardwood floors. This is 100-1000x fold more surface area to capture microparticles, some of which are allergens. Unless one deep-cleans the carpets daily, there is no justification for carpets to remain whenever an asthmatic lives. The only reason why carpets exist is that they are cheap to produce and easier to install compared to hardwood floors. Likewise, I would not trust what carpet-makers say about the allergenic properties of their carpets, since they have a conflict of interest.
Using science to see how carpets impact asthma
I once did a simple experiment using my laser particle counter (certified etc). I did particle counts about 6" feet away from the carpet in my apartment. I then rubbed the carpet with a brush once, and the particle counts went ~ 100-fold, across all channels (0.3, 0.5, 1.0, 2.5, and 5 microns), triggering the alarm on the counter to "hazardous levels." One cannot see this "smoke" with the naked eye because of the shallow 6" depth and because <5 micron particles are not visible (and these are the most potent ones in triggering asthma). If this many particles per unit of volume were spread over 100 feet from the ground, there would be a smog emergency declared.
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