In the 1980s it seemed that all new homes offered wall to wall carpeting as standard. But in today's home market, people are looking at a variety of floors and floor coverings -- and wall to wall carpeting may be on the outs.

If my perception is correct, that might be good news for people who become ill as a result of carpeting, carpet adhesives and materials that are trapped in and become emitted from carpets.

Over the last 20 years, there have been many complaints made to health agencies relating to carpeting -- as they have been tested and some have contained hazardous materials.

Of course different carpets contains different materials, so its hard to describe this in broad terms, but tests conducted over the years have shown that many carpets contain harmful materials, some of which are released into the home at unacceptable levels.

Apparently in response to public pressure, carpet manufacturers have engaged in batch testing to ensure that their carpets are as safe as they can be. And some batches have been discarded as a result of this testing.

Still, environmental advocates have alleged that the industry self-testing program lacks sufficient uniformity and isn't comprehensive enough to ensure public safety.

One of the hot button issues is carpet glue used for installation. Over recent years, companies have reduced the levels of harmful substances hazardous materials. But some installers allege that the "safe" adhesives do not perform as well as the "bad" adhesives.

The installation process is not the only time that there exists danger associated with carpeting. Once installed, the carpets retain a little of everything embedded on the shoes of people who walk on them.

Since this can include many of the pesticides, chemicals, and solvents found outside, a carpet represents a microcosm of the outside world, but in a confined space.

So what is the bottom line? Should carpeting be banned? Is it always terrible? No and no. But some of us, me included, are more susceptible to becoming ill from chemical exposure.

If you are susceptible, read labels and ask questions.

If in doubt -- maybe move on to another product or another installer. Or look into smorgasbord of products available -- from tile to wood to laminates. Do your homework before you make the purchase.

Any if you have carpeting, clean it more often than you probably do. If you have ever cleaned the carpeting yourself -- you have seen just how black the wash water is. Cleaning carpeting more often can only be a good thing.

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