We have discussed the benefits of eating organic, but did you know there are ways you can go organic other than food and beauty products? Switching to an organic mattress is a great way to cut down on your repeated chemical exposure. Now don’t panic, to get an organic mattress you don’t have to run outside and gather leaves, straw, and animal hide like our neanderthal ancestors did. Organic mattresses are increasing in popularity and mainstream companies have started adding organic options to their already existing mattress lines.
So what does it mean if a mattress is organic? It means that the materials used to build the mattress come from organic sources, and are chemical-free. A typical mattress is comprised of many layers (depending on it’s quality and price) and often contain polyurethane foam, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), chlorinated tris, and boric acid. Let’s break each one down:
Polyurethane Foam: While polyurethane foam can be found in a multitude of places (carpeting, walls, shoes, beds), it has been linked to nervous and immune system illness. A material that contains formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and other toxins is not something that should be omitted from your home safety radar, especially when it may be what you and your loved ones are sleeping on every single night. Some other dangers of sleeping on a mattress with polyurethane foam are allergic reactions, irregular heartbeat, headaches, body aches, dizziness, and fatigue. Here is a link that provides more detail about the dangers of polyurethane foam.
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE): PBDE is used as a flame retardant. Exposure to PBDE has been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and impaired fetal brain development. It is especially dangerous for pregnant mothers to be sleeping on mattresses that contains PBDE, as Dr. Mercola outlines in this fantastic article.
Chlorinated Tris: Chlorinated tris is a carcinogenic flame retardant. In animal studies, chlorinated tris caused infertility, decreased semen quality in men, and cancerous tumors on the kidneys and testes. The unfortunate thing about chlorinated tris is that it doesn’t stay localized to your couch or bed, the chemical floats in microscopic sized pieces around the house.
Boric Acid: Again, boric acid is used in mattresses as a flame retardant. In animal studies, boric acide caused testicular damage, lower semen quality, and tumors. Regarding boric acid use in products, the EPA has stated, “that manufacture, process, or use of the substance without dermal protection may result in serious chronic and developmental effects.”
So how can you find an organic mattress, and how do you know what to look for? More than likely you won’t be able to ask your salesperson “hey, does this mattress contain boric acid or polybrominated diphenyl ethers?” You’ll probably get a blank stare from your salesperson, followed by a carefully scripted speech about how their mattresses have been tested for safety and comfort. Thecleanbedroom.com has a great suggestion for questions to ask your salesperson to help you determine if the mattress is safe for you:
- Is the outer cover made with certified organic cotton? Be sure it has not been treated with stain resistant chemicals like formaldehyde.
- How does the mattress meet the U.S. Fire Resistant Code #1633 that took effect on July 1, 2007? If the mattress is organic, in most cases a layer of organic or untreated wool is placed under the outer cover to pass the burn test. Wool self-extinguishes when exposed to a flame. Some manufacturers use non-chemical flame retardants like corn husks and baking soda; ask how these are processed to be sure they are truly toxin-free.
- Is the innerspring coil system sprayed with oils or a rust-proof treatment? An organic innerspring mattress system is untreated.
- Is the inner core of a latex mattress made with 100% natural rubber? If the sales person hedges, the latex core is probably a blend of 60/40 natural rubber and petrochemical-based synthetic. The percentage of natural rubber in the core of an organic mattress should be 90+%.
We spend about one-third of our lives in bed, so making sure we are not being exposed to toxins while our bodies are supposed to be resting and recovering is crucial to our well-being. Here are some suggestions for organic mattresses:
By Courtney Perry