Carpet cleaners, like other astringents, contain a number of chemicals. Most people do not have problems with these chemicals. However, some people react to these chemicals and can actually get very sick. There are several illnesses that are believed to be caused by carpet cleaners.
One of the most common types of illnesses or problems associated with carpet cleaners are respiratory illnesses. The Center for Disease Control reported that in November 1982, 17 employees at a hospital clinic developed throat irritation, a cough and respiratory problems at work after a weekend carpet cleaning. Sodium dodecyl sulfate was the active ingredient in the carpet cleaner.
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a condition where people get sick from the chemicals in their environment, including after the use of carpet cleaners. In addition to respiratory problems, people can experience flu-like symptoms, nausea, burning eyes, migraines, fatigue and even body aches.
Kawasaki disease is believed to be directly caused by carpet cleaners. It affects young children under five and can cause a rash on the hands, feet, tongue and in the eyes–along with a fever. Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki first recognized these adverse effects in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Tokyo, Japan.
So, is there a connection? Researchers don’t know. There might be and it might be just a coincidence. One thing about scientific research – it is very hard to prove “lack of connection.” To illustrate this scientific problem: Did you know that over 90% of all criminals had eaten bread within 24 hours of committing their crime? Does that mean that eating bread makes you commit crime? Of course not! Can you prove there’s No connection? That’s a little harder.
Carpet cleaning has been blamed for Kawasaki Disease in the popular media, starting with an article in the National Enquirer in 1984 with the inflammatory headline “Carpet Shampooing Kills Children.” Sensational media stories like this and the recent story on Good Morning America continue to pop up from tine to time. The Industry’s response has been “it’s not true, people are imagining things, it’s not our fault.” The true picture falls somewhere between these two extremes.
It is worth pointing out that Kawasaki Disease was first recognized in Japan where carpeting in homes is quite rare. Some children who develop Kawasaki Disease have not been exposed to carpet cleaning.
In most cases, illnesses or symptoms will disappear once the carpet cleaning chemicals have had time to dissipate. Some conditions such as Kaswasaki disease and multiple chemical sensitivities may last longer.
People who develop illnesses from carpet cleaners should consider using more natural, or environmentally-safe carpet cleaners. These substances do not contain toxic chemicals such as butyl cellosolve that are linked with certain illnesses induced by carpet cleaners.