A recent Wools of New Zealand informational segment provides food for thought for those allergy sufferers among us considering the most suitable flooring surfaces for ourhomes. There is so much to talk about when it comes to wool; it’s always hard to decide where to begin. Initially, I considered writing about the beautiful land where wool sheep are raised or detail the many natural attributes of the wool fiber. But, with the approach of winter and spring on our heels, I decided it could be more helpful to address one of the bigger concerns folks have with wool: that is allergies.
This Wools of New Zealand article describes an incident that occurred in 1973 when the Swedish government banned the use of carpet based on the premises that carpet contributed to allergy concerns. Ironically, instituting this policy actually exacerbated incidence of allergies among Swedish people. The anecdotal evidence from this incident suggests that, contrary to popular belief, carpet actually diminishes the potential allergens and sheds light on this concern many people have with wool carpet.
People think they are allergic to wool because they’ve worn a sweater that’s made them itch when what they’re really feeling is the “tickle and prickle” (WNZ) of the coarse fibers against their skin, much like the itchiness felt after a haircut. This happens when coarse wool is blended with fine apparel wools to reduce cost (WNZ). Coarse fibers of any type would cause the same problem if used in apparel.
The reality is that wool is a non-allergenic fiber and does not promote the growth of dust mites or bacteria. What’s more, wool fibers are too long and too coarse to be inhaled and therefore do not affect asthma sufferers. (WNZ)
Unfortunately, many doctors routinely recommend carpet removal due to allergy concerns. They believe that if all possible places where allergens can be held are eliminated, allergic reactions will disappear. According to Wools of New Zealand:
In 1973, The Swedish government shared this viewpoint and banned the use of carpet in all public facilities. Carpet was replaced with hard surface flooring materials in homes, commercial environments and government buildings. Follow-up studies by the Swedish Central Statistics Bureau indicated a dramatic increase in reported allergies by the Swedish population following carpet replacement. As carpet was removed and hard surface flooring was installed, the incidence of allergies increased among the Swedish population. This alarming increase was in direct proportion to the amount of hard flooring materials installed. After 17 years, the allergic reactions were finally confirmed and the ban was removed. (WNZ)
Medical commonly professionals agree on the fact that people prone to respiratory problems are most affected by airborne particles. The irony twist on the story above is that these airborne particles are more easily disturbed in an environment of hard surfaces. Carpet holds dust in its structure, preventing the whirling up of particles that irritate hay fever and asthma. “Unlike synthetics, wool actually goes a step further to purify indoor air by absorbing pollutants and gases” (WNZ).
So, counter to the commonly held belief, carpet in general and wool carpet in particular, may actually prove to improve indoor air quality and reduce potential airborne allergens. What do you think about that?
Borrowed from Wools of New Zealand:
Wool production compares favourably with the manufacture of man-made fibers in regard to energy consumption, as expressed in tonnes oil equivalent per tonnes fiber produced. In fact, wool only uses between one-third and one-sixth of the energy required to produce polypropylene or nylon fibers. And there’s more good news – wool’s superior heat insulating properties save on heating costs.
Energy consumption per kg of fiber (MJ/kg) based on a life cycle analysis of carpeting by Utrecht University in the Netherlands is as follows:
Borrowed from Wools of New Zealand:
Wool: An Environmentally Friendly fiber
New Zealand is the world’s second largest wool exporter to all markets and is the leading carpet wool supplier. That’s because New Zealand wool is naturally the cleanest and whitest wool in the world for all purposes. And we are committed to preserving both quality and the environment.
As a policy Wools of New Zealand will:
- Mitigate or avoid wherever possible the environmental impact of wool production in New Zealand.
- Advance wool production that is economically viable, environmentally sustainable and consistent with the maintenance of animal health and productivity.
- Support targeted research and programmes that develop technologies and processes that improve environmental performance.
- Communicate to farmers and brand partners the best available technology for environmental management and compliance.
- Ensure that to qualify for the Wools of New Zealand label, carpets and rugs are produced by the most environmentally acceptable methods available.
New Zealand woolgrowers enjoy the support of the world’s best technical and research facility in AgResearch. They are committed to scientific land management to ensure minimal environmental impact – less than that of the other wool-producing countries.
Through successive investment in research & development, New Zealand wool is scoured using the most energy and water-efficient system in the world. Scientific land management and flock rotation ensure that the land will provide this natural fiber for future generations to use and enjoy.
For protection against lice, pesticides are applied to sheep. New Zealand wool is free from banned pesticides, and those used are similar to ones utilised to protect food crops. Any slight residue on wool is removed during the scouring process.
Pesticide levels have been reduced by one-half since 1993, making New Zealand’s sheep industry one of the world’s greenest animal production systems. New Zealand’s ongoing commitment to the environment continues, with the goal to further reduce or eliminate the use of various non-banned chemicals.
Borrowed from Wools of New Zealand:
Save the Earth
Discover the Good Nature of New Zealand Wool
Sheep outnumber people in New Zealand 13 to 1 and are a natural icon for the country. Living in the green hills and gentle, unpolluted climate, sheep enjoy unique natural advantages that enable them to grow incredibly beautiful, superior wool.As the world’s largest exporter of wool for carpets, New Zealand farmers have access to a vast repository of research and a strong legacy of wool harvesting skills. Such expertise ensures that their techniques impose minimum environmental impact and guarantees better animal care.
New Zealand Wool: A Fabulous fiber!
New Zealand sheep produce a naturally strong and uniform wool fiber which is flame retardant and resistant to dirt and crushing. It’s also naturally versatile. And because New Zealand wool is exceptionally pure and white, it possesses excellent dyeing characteristics that assure striking, rich, saturated color.
New Zealand wool used to manufacture products that carry the Wools of New Zealand mark carpets is one of the purest, most ecological fibers in the world. To produce this biodegradable and renewable resource, only environmentally responsible production methods are used. And the manufacturing process and the products themselves must conform to environmental requirements in the country of consumption.
Through the research of Wool Research Inc., New Zealand wool is scoured using the most energy and water-efficient system in the world. Moreover, scientific land management and flock rotation ensure that the land will nurture this natural fiber for generations to come.
No internationally banned pesticides are used on New Zealand sheep farms. Since 1993, pesticide levels have been cut in half, making New Zealand’s sheep industry one of the world’s greenest animal production systems. Any slight residue on the product is removed during the scouring process.
So when you see the Wools of New Zealand mark , you will know it is applied only to wool carpets meeting the highest quality – and environmental – standards.