Professor Olufunmilayo Bankole of the Department of Microbiology, College of Bio-sciences (COLBIOS) of the University, has highlighted the inherent dangers and health hazards of using rugs, saying that harmful bacteria could be found in them, such as Salmonella sp, Shigella sp, Staphylococcus sp, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, Pseudomonas sp, Enterobacter sp and Bacillus sp, among others.
Speaking on her research findings titled, “The Use of Rugs and its Bacterial Safety in Human Living Environment”, Professor Bankole stated that her interest in the research area was triggered-off by the documented fact that rugs cause asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, adding that there was a relationship between rugged areas, asthma and allergies, saying that rugs harbour a lot of dust within its woven fibers, containing many hidden micro-organisms.
The Professor of Food-Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, described rugs as thick, heavy and soft floor-mats used in interior spaces, where they provide decorative and functional advantages such as comfort, aesthetics and positive psychological impact, adding that the interior spaces are private homes, hospitals, schools, offices and event centres. She noted that rugs physically give less strain to the leg and foot when walking or standing, while they can also prevent slipping and falling, adding that for these reasons, most people like to use rugs.
According to her, rugs are produced from sheep wool that is dyed and weaved using looms. She observed that presently, there are varieties of rugs due to technological manufacturing procedure, which include woven carpet, needle felt rug, tufted rug and embroidered rug. She noted that despite the fact that modern rug-manufacturing procedure uses synthetic fibers like nylon, polypropylene, polyester and Polytrimethylene Terephthalate (PTT), which are not expected to support bacterial growth and retain little humidity; the soil obtained from such rugs still harbour bacteria. She added that some of the bacteria are spore formers, which can remain dormant for a very long time in the soft woven thread of the rug until such a condition like warmth and moisture, which are conducive for their growth, showing that rugs can be a reservoir of disease causing-bacteria in human beings.
Professor Bankole added that the research carried out on rugs used in homes, hospitals, schools, offices and event centres, confirmed the presence of bacteria, which are hazardous to man, noting that the environmental air around the rugged rooms, shoes brought onto the rugs, the body and apparels of occupants and other activities of occupants; such as coughing, laughing, sneezing, eating, food and drink spills can turn into avenues for harbouring bacteria on the rugs, adding that animal pets can also introduce bacteria from their bodies to rugs. Professor Bankole also observed that the more the population of the users of rug, the higher the number and type of bacteria in them, adding that research findings revealed that all the rugs used as floor mats, harboured bacteria. She noted that the bacteria load in hospitals, event centres and schools were more than those found in homes and offices.
Speaking on the benefits of this research, Professor Bankole said that her study had helped to expose the health hazards of rugs, adding that most people were carried away by the decorative, beautiful and aesthetic value of rugs on the floors, without realising the fact that they harbour harmful organisms to man.
The University Don noted that it was very difficult for her to collect samples from homes, hospitals and event centres, since they felt reluctant exposing their privacy to strangers. She disclosed further that necessary infrastructure were absent such as constant power supply needed for culturing, noting that inadequate laboratory equipment for complete identification and confirmation of molecular characteristics were missing, as she called on the government to set up adequate laboratories for staff and students in tertiary institutions, to enable them have proper molecular identification, gene sequencing and confirmation of micro-organisms.
Advising her fellow colleagues and upcoming researchers, Professor Bankole opined that they should not give up on researching, saying they should rather be encouraged, collaborate with each other and be good mentors to the younger ones, adding that they should liaise with other researchers in Nigeria and outside the country, to be exposed to new research techniques. Professor Bankole called on all rug-users, to imbibe the habit of cleaning them regularly, using vacuum suction and disinfectants, to remove or reduce microbial contaminants, eliminate stains and bring out the beauty of the rugs. She added that a general understanding of the rug treatment system used in the textile industry was important for rug-users, to help prevent infections, most especially, respiratory diseases.