One Mom’s Story: When Carpet Becomes Deadly

It seemed like an innocent enough question, “How was your move?” Little did I know that it was one of the worst experiences of a lifetime for one mom who’s son I was coaching on my son’s soccer team. “Let’s just say, it ended with a trip to the ER,” she filled me in. Naturally, Breezy Mama had to get her story of why the carpet in her new home nearly killed her 18 month old daughter.

How many days had you been in the new house?

It was our second night in the house. Grace’s room had been aired out and we had the HVAC fan on for the first night. The second night we went out in the afternoon (closed up the house) and she went down that night in a room that had not been aired out.

When did you first notice something might be wrong with your daughter? What symptoms was she displaying that raised your concern?

She had slept 14 hours! 12 hours is normal. I tried to wake her and knew right away that something was not right. After sleeping that long I thought maybe she was coming down with something — although, she is a fussy baby when sick, not a sleepy one. She was very hard to wake up. Almost unable to be woken. After a diaper change we tried to talk to her and she was just very glazed over, very unresponsive, her eyes were open but it was as if she was asleep. She was not responding to us in any way. She did not have a fever or any other symptoms.

At what point did you go to the doctor?

I sat her in her highchair and went to get her milk. I turned back around and she seemed to be nodding off. It was then that I decided to take her to be seen. She was in no way acting like her normal 18month old self — the baby that was normally up before her brothers, ready to tackle the day with a smile and giggles. There were no smiles, no cries, just a stare. Which we now know is called “stupor”.

How did you end up in the ER?

It was a Sunday morning and the on call doctor was going to open in 5 minutes. I put her in the car and, at a certain point, I made the decision to just head to the ER. She looked so out of it in the car. No cries, no nothing. I began to realize that I had everything to lose if I went to the office instead of the ER. I decided to head straight there instead.

What exactly did they say was wrong and how did you figure out the carpet was involved?

Basically she was admitted overnight and subjected to many many tests, a lot of blood work, and an EEG. They tested her for carbon monoxide, every ingestible poison. The doctors were convinced she was poisoned, yet nothing showed up as poison on her blood work. Keep in mind, the blood work was for INGESTABLES. Her blood showed metabolic acidosis which is what indicated she had a “oxygen deprivation at the cellular level.” Meanwhile, my husband was furiously working at the house to help determine the cause. The hospital doctors originally dismissed the new house/new carpet theory. We cleared the house of Carbon Monoxide. We consulted many toxicologists as well as air quality experts. We were sure it was something she was exposed to. This was such a sudden event. My husband was able to collect the information on the new carpet, padding and adhesive and what he found was astonishing. Basically what we chose was a “green certified” carpet and pad. Meaning it has LOWER VOC’s (the harmful fumes that off-gas from new materials that have been chemically treated). The adhesive, however, was what we were not given any choice in, was a HIGHLY TOXIC substance that even carries a warning when used. A copious amount was used in her room to install the carpet. It was not used in my son’s room. The MSDS for the adhesive lists two of the contents as Toluene and Hexane, these are highly toxic chemicals that are KNOWN NEUROTOXINS and can cause long term effects. These are also the chemicals (huffing) that people use to “get high.” Once we found that out, our pediatrician consulted with poison control and did some of her own research to confirm that this was in fact, the cause of her illness. These chemicals are known to cause “stupor, coma and even DEATH” according to the EPA. If we had known what chemical to look for, we could have confirmed it at the hospital. It was not confirmed until after she was discharged. Thankfully, once these chemicals have off gassed from your body, they are gone and unable to be detected. Once she received the hours and hours of oxygen therapy, the chemicals were gone from her body.

What is your advice for other parents moving into a new home or getting new carpet that you wish you had known?

My advice for other parents would be to be skeptical about EVERYTHING. We though we had made a “safe” choice. Low VOC carpet and pad, low VOC paint. We made our decisions, especially when it came to our children, very carefully. We trusted that their rooms would be safe when we tucked them in at night. There is no excuse today to use something so toxic. There are dozens of options out there for adhesive!! We were not given any choice. Be annoying, ask questions, get the specs on everything that’s going into your home. There is so much information out there. It is up to us as parents to protect our children. No one will do it for you. At the VERY least, do NOT move in to a new home or a newly remodeled home right after something like new carpet is installed. The EPA warns that a home should not be inhabited for at least 72 hours after carpet and pad installation. We never knew this. If we were given this simple warning, we would have investigated further and made different decisions.

Anything else you’d like to share?

We immediately removed the carpet, pad and adhesive from the rooms and replaced it with an all natural replacement. We are so so grateful that our sweet baby girl is now healthy and back to being a normal, vibrant 18 month old.

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  1. Wow, I’m so glad to hear she’s now okay! What a horrible ordeal. Thanks so much for sharing about the experience. Our carpet is in great need of replacement, I’m very glad to know these things to consider (and so sorry you had to go through all of this).

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