Carpets can emit VOCs for five years or possibly more, although the off-gassing decreases significantly several months after installation. The Environmental Protection Agency advises ventilating the area well for at least 72 hours after installation by opening windows and using fans that move air directly to the outdoors.
Continue to use fans during installation and for several weeks afterward. Another recommendation is to ask the installer to vacuum the new carpet with a HEPA filter vacuum and clean with a hot water extraction method, which can remove a good portion of the VOCs. If possible, take a vacation soon afterward.
Synthetic carpets are made from nylon fibers with a polypropylene backing. Of the chemicals released from carpet, most noticeable are styrene and 4-phenlycyclohexane (4-PC), both of which come from the latex backing used on 95 percent of carpets. The “new carpet” aroma is the odor of 4-PC off-gassing. In glue-downs, the adhesive used to affix the carpet to the floor typically contains benzene and toluene, some of the more harmful VOCs.