Can Heat From Sunlight Speed Up Chemical Off Gassing?

Can Heat From Sunlight Speed Up Chemical Off Gassing?

This weeks blog  once again comes from an experience at a client’s home. My client lives in a modern home surrounded by windows. It was a beautiful sunny day. I was walking through a hallway to get to the master bedroom, and I was stopped in my tracks with a strong chemical smell. I called to my client to get her attention. I said,”can you smell that?” “It’s giving me a headache.” She said, “where do you think the smell is coming from?” I said, “I think it is coming from the rug.” What should we do? I said, “get it outside.”

Ultraviolet Radiation

The sun’s energy is made up of three distinct spectral components: ultraviolet radiation, visible radiation, and near-infrared radiation.  What distinguishes these from one another is the wavelength ranges that characterize them, commonly measured in nanometers (nm).  A nanometer is very small.  A human hair is over 100,000 nanometers thick.

Ultraviolet radiation is invisible to the human eye and has the shortest wavelengths of the three types mentioned, from 300 to about 380 nm.  Visible light covers the approximate range from 380 to 780 nm, while the near infrared radiation (sometimes called invisible solar heat) has the longest wavelengths, from 780 to 4045 nm.

What is Heat?

Let’s consider what heat is. Heat is the transfer of energy from one location to another.Energy as heat always travels in the same direction: from an object that has more energy as heat to an object that has less energy as heat.In other words, energy as heat will travel from an object with a higher temperature to an object with a lower temperature.

It is called ‘specific heat’.

Area Rug And Carpet Safety

Most materials, natural or synthetic, have some environmental impact, and those used for carpets and rugs are no exception. Whatever you bring into the home has the potential to bring in unwanted chemicals.

Most area rugs combine synthetic face fibers — nylon, polyester, and olefin (polypropylene) – produced mainly from petroleum derivates, with over 100 chemicals added for stain resistance, wear resistance, mothproofing, fungicides, soil repellents, processing aids and adhesives binding the backings and the tufts together. 

Many of these chemicals, as well as fibers themselves, are sources of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOC like formaldehyde, and many others), which are a health hazard, and can off gas for a long time. Offensive off gassing comes from glues and rubbers.

Mix these chemicals with the heat from the sun, will speed up the off gassing, causing a greater health risk. The heat from the sun, shining on a rug or carpet causes an Energy Reaction.

This makes carpets generally greater health risk than rugs, but rugs with significant amount of latex (or other) glues – such are those with double backing – are also a concern.

While you are not likely to know the specifics of the rug/carpet chemical off gassing intensity, nor your sensitivity limits, there is no need to take unnecessary chances. 

If your new carpet, or rug, is chemically treated and unprotected, it is always good to keep the space well ventilated for up to a few weeks. 

Options

 Look for untreated area rugs, or those made with low-emission substances and materials. 

Look for a carpet or  rug, made from  natural fiber such cotton, wool, jute, hemp, sisal, and more.

Several products such as window tinting, window shades or Low-E windows are moderately effective at blocking ultraviolet radiation. However, even the best of these coatings still transmits 26% of the UV radiation. 

“Think Before Bringing Anything Into Your Home”

Comments

  1. Hi Cathy:

    You continue to find obscure topics to discuss and make them relevant. How do you do that? I’m constantly wondering what you’ll come up with next.

    I think when the time comes to do something w/my place if I decide on carpeting I’ll have to refer back to this column. Thanks for doing what you do to keep us all informed on the health risks of what is in our homes.



    Chris

    • cathy says:

      Dear Chris,

      I speak from my heart and with passion. I think people should be educated on these topics, and if they already know about a certain topic then let it be a reminder to them. It is so easy to forget, that we are in control and not the manufacturers. Thank you for your support.

      ~

      Cathy

  2. rimly says:

    Cathy this was a revelation. Thank god we have woollen Tibetan carpets at home but who knows what other toxic gases are produced from other things in our homes. Good to have you as an expert warning us of these hazards.

    • cathy says:

      Dear Rimly,

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. I will admit I write from the heart and with passion. I love my job! You made a great choice, but what about the others that just buy a rug or carpet because it looks good and they don’t even think about the chemicals!!! I hope I can SAVE someone from doing that…

      ~

      Cathy

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