Op-Ed

Questions on Carpet Padding and Flame Retardants

August 1, 2004

I found your recent feature article on flame retardants [

Vol. 13, No. 6] to be very enlightening. You have written it with your usual thoroughness. That’s why I subscribe to

EBN and why I tell my students to subscribe. I find so much of what you report to be valuable for clients and students.

[Sometimes] I assess houses for contaminants that could be responsible for clients’ health conditions but can’t find anything. Now here [is] another undisclosed source of chemical contamination in virtually every house in the country. This was important enough to rate a special e-mail Health Alert to my past clients. [But a few] questions came to mind.

The most common carpet pad, called

rebond, is made of multicolored bits of foam glued to a scrim. Is this polyurethane foam? At what age does the pad become a danger? What flame retardants are used in alternative carpet padding (including natural-

fiber pads such as horse hair, jute, and wool felt), and are they problematic, too?

I chose a synthetic felt pad made from nylon 6 fibers for my own house in order to avoid the urea-formaldehyde glue in rebond. Does this pad use brominated flame retardants?

Lawrence J. Gust, Instructor

International Institute for

Bau-Biologie and Ecology

Clearwater, FloridaEditor’s Response: Yes, rebond carpet pad is made from polyurethane foam. We are very concerned about the brominated flame retardants (BFRs) commonly used in flexible polyurethane foam and the fact that these chemicals escape as the padding disintegrates. Even if the polyurethane foam padding is 100% recycled, we will not list it in the GreenSpec database or print directory if it contains any BFRs. We are not aware of research into the release rate of flame retardants as polyurethane foam ages; we suspect that there is some release from Day 1 and that it increases as the material ages and becomes more friable. Although we have not investigated other carpet padding materials, we are not aware of the use of BFRs in their production.

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