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Lymphoma -The Dangers of New Carpet

In February of 2000 we moved into a house located on the Third Street bike path here in Tucson, just about three blocks East of the University of Arizona. The house had new carpet which we initially thought we liked. Oh, the smell of new carpet, like the smell of a new car. February in Tucson is typically cool to mild with temperatures usually 30 to 40 in the morning rising as high as the 70's by afternoon. All was well, we thought for the first several months. Our Old English Sheepdog, however, started to get less and less active. Soon he was barely able to go for a four or five block walk. By the time the summer heat arrived, he had started to wretch frequently and barely was able to complete a walk. Some mornings he would come back and just roll on his side and not even eat his usual breakfast. Finally we took him to see the veterinarian and she felt a mass in his neck. The wretching was probably related to partial obstruction of his esophagus. Our friend of ten plus years and sixth child was very ill, probably lymphoma in his superior mediastinum. I had noted that his right eyelid had become ptotic and he had started to stumble frequently. Often he just seemed to be disoriented. Both my wife and I had also noted that we were both generally lethargic and during the day it seemed like we simply could not track a thought and always felt very tired. I have noted from previous toxic environmental exposures that when you are so tired all the time you can't work and when you try to sleep you can't, it is most often some toxin in your immediate environment.

lymphoma ... and new carpet
volatile organic compounds VOC's

Benzene, toluene, formaldehyde and arsenical pesticides are just a few of the 1000+ nasty organic chemicals that have been found in new carpet. Why they are necessary for the manufacture of new carpet I have no idea although I can conjure up a few reasons why lovely corporations like Dupont and Monsanto would do this. As they are typical organic chemicals, they have a tendancy to become gaseous at various temperatures somewhat similar to boiling water to create steam. They tend to give off these vapors at temperatures much lower than the boiling point of water, typically the average room temperature, even in the winter. The amount of vapor given off (off gassing) is to some degree temperature dependant -the warmer the ambient temperature, the more off gassing that will occur. In Arizona we are fortunate to have low humidity for a good portion of the long hot summer, which allows us to use evaporative cooling a good part of the time. This is a real advantage if you have new carpet, since by its very nature evaporative cooling is dependant on moving large volumes of air thus reducing the concentration of the off gassed vapors. But when you turn on the air conditioner and close up the house there is no where for the off gassed vapors to go and you end up very tired and lethargic with impaired short term memory. The closer to the carpet, the higher the concentration of off gassed vapors. These vapors of nasty chemicals like benzene are highly carcinogenic also.

whose noses are closest to the carpet

Unfortunately indoor pets and small children especially in the toddling stage can be severely affected by being on new carpet. First, their noses are a lot closer to the source of the off gased chemical vapors, the carpet, than their parents or owners' noses. The closer to the carpet the nose is, the higher the dose of off gassed volatile organic chemicals. The higher the dose, the more likely something nasty will come of it, from mild respiratory tract irritation to cancer. Also most toddlers and pets do not have the same body mass as their owners or parents. This further concentrates the dose of off gassed chemicals since the smaller body mass physically has less ability to store and detoxify these toxic chemicals. This raises the tissue levels much more rapidly than in an normal 150 pound adult, which in turn increases the likelihood of more severe problems like cancer/lymphoma.


Our dog Harry used to sleep on the carpet, oftentimes with his nose literally on the carpet itself. Add to that the fact that dogs and toddlers for some reason will lick the carpet and the dose really increases almost exponentially. One of our neighbors had several parrots. We were talking to her one evening about how sick our dog had become and she told us that she never puts carpet in any house, not just for her and her husband's health but for the health of their parrots. According to her, if you simply place a parrot in a room with new carpet the parrot will die in 24 to 48 hours. An example of a small body mass pet proving to be very susceptible to the off gassing of volatile organic compounds in carpet. The carpet industry will try to deny all this and also tell you that certain individuals are more susceptible than others. This simply is not true -all living cells will demonstrate susceptibility to toxic substances like benzene and toluene. Just because you don't have immediate symptoms does not mean you are not being affected. These toxic substances accumulate in your fat cells over time and since many of them are inert, they will remain in your fatty tissues forever. While there may be some variation in the response of various different individuals to these toxins, all people if exposed long enough will eventually show some manifestation of exposure to these toxic chemicals. This is called the L. D. 50 (lethal dose 50)in scientific terms. Loosely translated this is the dosage level at which 50% of the test subjects die. While there is some variation within species, what I really want to stress here is that no living group of organized cells such as a dog, toddler or adult can be exposed to these toxins without some accumulation of these toxins in their fatty tissues. That being established, as long as the exposure continues -it is only a matter of time until any organism will reach its L. D. 50.

cancer
now the leading cause of death
in the five and under age group

Back when I was in medical school and internship it was generally accepted that trauma was the leading cause of death (significant morbidity and mortality) in the under-five age group. Now trauma has been replaced by cancer in that group. Add to that the one-in-three or so adults who have cancer and one has to be amazed at this epidemic of cancer. I am sure that diet (animal protein and sugar / sucrose) plays the principal role in these statistics, but when you look at the under five age group it would seem that there may be other factors. One of these has got to be environmental poisoning.

the toxic neonatal environment

What happens when Mom is pregnant? Usually first a room for the new baby is prepared, sometimes with new paint, new crib mattress and not uncommonly -new carpet. Mom goes to the hospital and delivers the new baby. Then she comes home and immediately places the new baby in what can be an extremely toxic environment. If Mom then doesn't breast feed, this further compounds the damage to the neonatal immune system which is at this point very unsophisticated and marginally able to function without the additional immunity conferred on the baby by mother's milk. The baby gets sick and goes to the doctor, oftentimes for frequent ear infections or colds etc. No one tumbles to the fact that the baby is trying to survive some very critical months in her or his life -in an environmentally poisoned room. Not too many emergency room docs I know are going to ask about the baby's environment at home. Nor do many pediatricians I know ask their patient's parents about things like new carpet, furniture, crib mattresses, curtains or the age of the house that the baby lives in. Everyone is now aware of lead poisoning from lead based paints and fortunately they have been banned from baby's environment. It is now time to take a much closer look at all of baby's room for sources of environmental toxins. If I were to have a neonate around these days, I would certainly want to give him or her every chance possible for a healthy and happy first five years and then some. Breast feed the baby. Keep him or her away from cow's milk or for that matter any other species milk, animal protein and the whites, refined sugar, white rice and white flour. Keep the neonates immediate environment free of toxic carpets, crib mattresses or paints. We had five children, now all in their twenties and early thirties. They were all raised vegetarian from 1977. The youngest two were never exposed to animal protein and really can't remember ever eating meat. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we ever had to take any one of them to the emergency room, and two of those times were for lacerations.

new carpet ... old carpet
no carpet is good

The big problem with carpet besides the off gassing of toxic organic chemicals is that, any carpet, especially really old carpet, acts as a reservoir for all the debris that can find its way into your house by any means. Carpet is just dirty. Even with steam cleaning a lot of the nastiness in carpet cannot be removed. If you clean it with powerful cleaning solutions you just make the carpet toxic again. Even though we all really like the feel of carpet, the convenience of carpet, and the dirt-hiding ability of carpet -it is a no-win situation. Carpet isn't healthy for anyone. If you walk outside and happen to track some pesticides in your house on the bottom of your shoes, depositing it on the carpet, those pesticides are there forever. Bacteria, dust and molds all like carpet and will hang out in carpet as long as it is in your house. Sixty percent of new carpet sold today is to replace old carpet, a fact which is now causing a significant environmental problem of trying to find some way to dispose of all the old carpet. I used to love the smell of new carpet, much like the smell of a new car. The last new car we bought was in 1984. The last new carpet I plan on smelling was last February. I hope I never smell it again and I really hope our ever-so-faithful companion and sixth child Harry survives his toxic carpet exposure. And, as soon as possible we will remove the carpet where we are living, or move somewhere with no carpet.

Thanks for your time and your attention.
Copyright © John Mericle M.D. D.A.B.R. 2000-2012 All Rights Reserved

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