New Toxics in Carpet Report Shows Health, Environmental and Recycling Implications

March 5, 2018 | News

A new report by Anthesis into the use of toxic chemicals in the manufacture and supply of carpets sold on the European market has highlighted a number of health and environmental concerns.

The study, delivered for Changing Markets Foundation, is a culmination of three month’s research by Anthesis specialists Jessica Onyshko in the US and Peter Scholes in the UK. It is designed to give an overview of the most worrying chemicals used and the impacts of these chemicals on human and environment health as well as the transition to circular economy.

The study investigates how these chemicals are viewed in the current regulatory framework and certification schemes, and actions that can be taken for their elimination or replacement in transition to the circular economy. The report lays out extensive detail on the extent of the European carpets market and chemical additives used in manufacture for that market, whilst developing pertinent recommendations for regulators, manufacturers and consumers.

The EU is the second biggest market in the world for carpet after the US, as well as being one of the largest producers. Of the waste carpet arising in the EU annually, the vast majority is likely to be landfilled, a large proportion incinerated, and only a few percent recycled. Several barriers exist to the recycling of carpets including carpet design, collection, contamination, and the presence of toxic substances. The focus of this report is to look at the toxic substances currently found in carpets and how these could be replaced and/or eliminated to facilitate the circular economy.

Of the 59 substances identified in this report, 37 are not restricted or banned for their use in carpet or carpet materials.

This report has identified a list of 59+ toxic substances potentially used in carpets sold on the EU market. Based on the research, it appears many of the chemicals found in carpets may volatilize and/or migrate from carpets through typical use and abrasion of carpet as well as adhere to dust – making dermal, inhalation, and ingestion exposure to their toxic effects all possible.

Some of the toxic effects of the chemicals of concern identified include carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicity and endocrine disruption, to name just a few. Of the 59 substances identified in this report, 37 are not restricted or banned for their use in carpet or carpet materials. Additionally, many of the certifications that monitor chemicals in carpets do not currently ban or restrict the chemicals of concern in this report either.

As a result of our research and findings, recommendations have been prepared for policy makers, carpet manufacturers, carpet certifiers, as well as consumers to ensure the highest level of consumer and environmental protection in the manufacture and use of carpets. These recommendations come at a critical time, as the European Union is reviewing legislation on the interface between chemical, waste and product legislation.

James Ewell
Associate Director and Sustainable Chemistry Practice Lead, North America

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