Why Buy a Natural Mattress?
Organic Latex Mattresses; The Most Healthy Solution
Latex mattresses are sometimes polyurethane and chemical free (you’ll have to read the ingredients and check to see whether it’s truly organic), and sometimes they're not. There are synthetic latex foams (not organic at all, and not safe from off-gassing), blended latex (interestingly enough still called “natural”), 100% natural latex foams and certified organic latex foams. Latex Sap is harvested from Hevea Brasiliensis (rubber) trees usually found within about 10 degrees of the equator. Generally rubber trees can be harvested for their sap about 160 days a year, and some sources say the trees recover within about an hour. The material is completely natural, and sustainable since rubber trees can produce sap indefinitely.
Unfortunately, even mattresses made with natural rubber (latex) usually have polyurethane foam or fire retardant components. Many companies proclaim “organic” with no certifications whatsoever. Some companies proclaim a mattress a “latex mattress”, when it is in all actuality 2 or 3 inches of synthetic latex on top of a 5 or 6 inch polyurethane oil based core, complete with glues & fire retardants and all the rest.
OMI and SavvyRest (our truly organic manufacturers) use no chemical fire retardants or polyurethane foams. Their latex sap is outside third party certified organic and chemical free.
Non-organic mattress manufacturers make mattresses that have two main issues when it comes to health: the contents in the mattress and the fire retardant barrier.
The Contents in the Mattress
Non-organic mattress manufacturers make mattresses from man-made materials, most of which are petrochemical based: Polyurethane foams, Glues & adhesives, perfumes & deodorizers & the like (see below). Petrochemical based of coarse means the materials are derived from oil. Oil is not not a renewable resource, its is highly flammable, and contains toxins. Think of oil spill clean up hazmat suits (see below for real off gassing test results).Glues, adhesives, perfumes, deoderizers and the rest contain many off gassing toxins as well (see below for more in depth info). These toxins off gass out of these products into your bedroom atmosphere.
The Application of Glues in Typical Mattresses
Mattress manufacturers like Tempur-pedic, Simmons, Serta, Sealy, Kingsdown, Spring Air etc use glues to bond the inner layers of mattresses together as well as to bond the fabric cover to the core. Adhesives can be rolled to bond each layer or can be diluted in water and sprayed over each surface to be bonded. This second application method allows manufacturers to call their glue a "water based adhesive".
A water based adhesive is a simple process whereby water is mixed in with a solvent based adhesive to facilitate spraying the glue over each mattress surface. When the glue dries, all water molecules in the adhesive evaporate and only the adhesive which emit VOCs is left behind.
The long-term health effects that may occur after prolonged exposure to Volatile Organic Content (VOC) found in Adhesive/Glue solvents include cancers, damage to the heart, liver, central nervous system and kidneys.
In any kind of adhesive, the main ingredients are:
- Solvent/water carrier
- Solid component
Perfumes and Deodorizers
Certain imported polyurethane memory foam products have industrial perfumes to mask the chemical odor that exists in their products.
Chemicals Found in Air Fresheners:
- Tributyltin maleate (carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity etc)
- Bonded quatermary ammonium chloride compounds
- Paradichlorobenzene (anticipated to be a carcinogen)
Memory foam mattresses usually have a layer of polyurethane foam to add additional cushioning and durability.
If you don’t get an organic mattress, you can expect to find polyurethane foam in all mattress types. Even blow-up mattresses and water-beds usually have a layer of polyurethane foam inside them to help make a stronger seal.
If you recently purchased a new mattress and you’re getting strange side effects or headaches, you may want to consider switching to an organic mattress. If you’re experiencing irritation, nausea or other symptoms, it may be the result of an allergic reaction to chemicals decomposing in your mattress.
Why Polyurethane Foam is Used in Mattresses
Polyurethane foam is used in almost every mattress type because its cheap, lightweight, strong and durable. The downside is that polyurethane foam tends to decompose or off-gas very slowly over time. Polyurethane foam replaced latex for padding/softness in American mattress production during WWII.
The Fire Retardant Barrier on the Mattress
As of 2007, radical new fire retardant standards have been in place in the USA. All mattresses sold in theUSA must meet these standards by law. To reach these new standards, non-organic mattress manufacturers use chemicals sprayed on the fabrics of their mattresses. Chemicals such as formaldehyde, antimony, PDBE’s, and the like (see below for more info). These new fire retardant standards were pushed through Congress by special interests, including the cigarette lobby & the chemical lobby.
"We can buy things that are BPA free, or phthalate free or lead free. We don’t have the choice to buy things that are flame-retardant free…The laws protect the chemical industry, not the general public… current federal oversight of chemicals is so weak that manufacturers are not required to label products with flame retardants nor are they required to list what chemicals are used."
Dr. Heather M. Stapleton, Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Duke University
Common fire retardants:
- Boric Acid (rat poison, roach killer)
- Decabromodiphenyl oxide
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE's)
- Antimony trioxide
- Vinylidene chloride
- Zinc borate
Why Known Carcinogens are Added to Mattresses
One might ask, with all the very obvious health risks of adding carcinogenic chemicals to our mattresses, why is this allowed? In 2005, California passed a law requiring any mattresses sold in the state to resist open flames. All 50 states already had existing legislation that required mattresses do not go up in flames due to a lit cigarette. Some experts estimate the laws will save a few hundred lives per year. What the lawmakers didn’t realize, was that these fire-resistant mattress mandates came with a nasty hidden cost.
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