What is new carpet smell?

When a new building is constructed or an existing building is remodeled, many smells and odors can become an issue.  One of the more noticeable odors that may contribute to indoor air quality issues is 4-PCH (4-phenylcyclohexene) or “new carpet smell”.

New carpet smell is the odor associated with the off-gassing of a wide variety of chemicals that occurs when carpets or rugs are installed in a building.  This odor may be associated with formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and a compound present in most latex carpet backings called 4-PCH.  Exposure to high levels of 4-PCH may result in health complaints such as respiratory irritation, eye irritation, and headaches.  While many compounds may be present in the off-gassing of new carpeting, 4-PCH has become a specific target compound for measurement by organizations such as the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

How can new carpet odor or 4-PCH be tested?

As with other specific VOC testing services, 4-PCH can be measured by collecting samples of the air in a very detailed manner.  These samples are collected by a specially calibrated pump into a glass sorbent tube.  The tubes are then sealed and transported for lab analysis by a method called GC/FID (gas chromatography/Flame-ionizing detection).  The professional set-up, calibration, collection, transportation, and analysis of the sample is vital to providing useful results.

What are safe levels of 4-PCH new carpet off-gassing odor?

While no current OSHA permissible exposure limits are in effect, Hawk Environmental Services uses the LEED and FEMA guidelines for 4-PCH upper limits of 6.5 micrograms per cubic meter.

Air sampling for 4-PCH

What can be done to reduce new carpet odor?

Typically the odors and off-gassing associated with new carpeting are related to the length of time that the carpet has been in place, the quantity of chemicals released by the materials, and the ventilation in the building.  Our inspectors will make a general assessment of building ventilation, collect a history on the date that the material has been installed, and use this information to generate recommendations.  If the findings show high levels of 4-PCH the inspector may recommend flushing out the building, increasing ventilation, or replacing the offending materials.

How much does testing for 4-PCH (new carpet odor) cost?

For our clients in the general Seattle, WA or Portland, OR area each sample for 4-PCH will cost $450.  Additional travel fees may apply to areas greater than 30 minutes drive from our offices, and bulk discounts are available for larger buildings or projects where multiple samples are requested.  Please call or email to discuss the specifics.

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