THE QUESTION
Hi,
I’m pregnant and was considering having the old wall-to-wall carpet ripped up in my living room and what will eventually be the baby’s room, to cut down on dust mites (he or she will initially be sleeping in my bedroom, which has hardwood floors).  I’m wondering, however, if the risk of possibly stirring up PBDEs in the carpet backing is the greater of two evils in this situation.  I will be out of town for 5 or 6 days and the carpet could be removed during this time.  The carpets are at least 15 years old, though.  I’m wondering if PBDEs are still a threat if the carpet is just sitting or if it is worse to stir them up.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Kim
THE ANSWER

Hi Kim,
Thanks for writing and congrats! Ah, carpets. It’s a tough call. That 15-year-old carpet has offgassed by now, but that’s a lot of years of grime, dust mites, and more. And ripping it up and out will release an unknown chemical cocktail–including, as you mention, flame retardants. Ultimately it’s your choice. I’d have to know more about what the carpet is, who made it, how it was installed, and what your space is configured like to say more.
If you do decide to have it ripped out, make sure you get all of your furniture out of the room and seal off the rooms where you store it; you don’t want the dust from the carpets settling on your bed or chest of drawers. Then, make sure there  is ample ventilation and that you have your place cleaned after the carpet is torn out by someone who specializes in post-construction clean up. The cleaners should have a vacuum with a HEPA filter and do meticulous wet-wiping of all nooks and crannies, baseboards, and more. If you can stay out for longer than six days and use air filters, all the better.
Next — what are you planning on replacing the carpet with? If you can leave the floors bare–and refinish them if need be with the greenest solution you can find–all the better. Then you can put down a few washable throw rugs.  If you want to put back in wall-to-wall carpeting, wool is preferable to synthetic fabrics, avoid chemical stain guard treatments, and be careful with the backings. Installation with tacks/nails is safer than with glues containing questionable chemicals. Ventilate any room with a new carpet for a while before letting baby sleep in it.
Here’s an excerpt from Planet Home on carpets:
Your child’s floor is best left bare. Padded play mats are tempting to break the falls of kids learning to walk, but they’re almost always made of synthetic rubber that off-gasses into the room’s air. Cotton rag rugs that can be thrown into the washing machine are ideal for kids’ rooms. Wool rugs without backing are also a good, washable option. Chose natural latex skid pads rather than PVC or other plastic versions. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting in some rooms in your home, set the children up in a room that doesn’t have it. Do not install new synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting with a glue adhesive. Avoid all rugs and carpets that are treated with stain repellents, mildew treatments, or other chemicals. Ask questions when you’re shopping. Deep pile rugs–even pure-grow wool ones–aren’t something you want in a kids’ room, as they’re dust-mite and pet-dander motels. And no matter what is on the floor, vacuum often with a machine containing a HEPA filter.
Hope this helps!
Best,
Alexandra