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What’s in your Mattress?


Traditional foam mattresses that supposedly makes us sleep comfortably contain substances that may turn out harmful in the long-term. In this case, we must avoid these unsafe household fixtures and look for healthier natural alternatives. Before we make new and better choices, it’s important to identify first the toxic components so we will know which materials or substances to avoid in the market.

Anti-Fire Substances

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires all mattress manufacturers in the country to comply strictly with the federal government’s standard for mattresses’ flammability or 16 CFR 1640. As of 2007, said products must contain adequate fire-retardant chemicals that can resist two-foot wide open flame from blowtorches for at least 70 seconds. Other merchandise this regulation covers are baby cribs and sofa beds. More than 90% of leading brands use contentious fire-retardant fabrics because of the cheap price.

Here’s the downside. Fire-retardant materials contain the following harmful chemicals:

  1. Antimony trioxide compound that may produce carcinogens and lead to heart, kidney, or lung damage.
  2. Boric acid is a developmental and reproductive toxin often used as pest-killer in crops.
  3. Decabromodiphenyl oxide belongs to the group of ethers that cause loss of hair and memory.

Said compounds permeate mattress covers that our skin easily absorbs. Persistent exposure results in accumulation within the bloodstream, umbilical cord, and breast milk. It is also associated with cancers, skin irritation, and birth deficiencies.

Although the government regulation was meant to ensure fire safety, it produced a health risk as well because of the dangerous chemical composition of these anti-fire chemicals. The policy does not compel labeling of chemical substances for fireproofing. Companies have the prerogative to use any chemical including those which have not gone through trials for lethal or threatening side effects.

The approval of the National Flameproof Mattress rule allowed doctors and chiropractors to prescribe mattresses without fire-retardants for patients. Medical practitioners have this option if they decide that health hazards coming from poisonous anti-fire compounds interfere with the persons’ health.

Other Possible Contaminants

Another unsafe mattress content is formaldehyde. This refers to an adhesive that binds the cushion together. Formaldehyde is linked to allergic conditions, asthma, as well as cancers of the lung, throat, and nose.

Synthetic latex foam originating from petroleum-based compounds also offers severe health hazards. Memory and Polyurethane foams come from petroleum that break down eventually and emit gasses into the air. These materials are easily combustible.

Vinyl is also found in mattresses. The presence of stabilizers like phthalates and antimony can initiate asthma, allergies, genital problems, and modified child behavior. Manufacturers use vinyl since it is one of the most economical ways in making bacteria-resistant and waterproof beds.

Alternative Mattresses for Safety

Given this warning, we might as well forego the conventional brands and choose organic fabrics like unbleached cotton with organic dyes and fillings. Around 25% of insecticides or bug killers are utilized for cotton crops. Purchasing organic fixtures can make a large difference to our ecosystem and keep everyone in the family healthy.

Look for natural and organic latex made from the sap pf rubber trees. The natural or certified organic latex variety and not artificial models can be the healthiest alternative. Besides, latex remains tough and capable of lasting for over 20 years depending on the brand’s quality.

Avoid batting or fiber fillings. Batting is the supple padding that serves as cover for latex or spring foam found inside the mattress. Organic wool or cotton can be the healthy choice. Such fibers also soften the surface. As an additional precaution, clean the mattress fibers at least once every year for sanitation purposes.

Federal Policies and Mattress Manufacturers

Keep in mind that federal rules have been quite lenient giving companies the opportunity to misinform consumers. Majority of these companies claim their products use plant-based foams. However, they don’t notify the public that only five up to 20% is made of natural plant oils. The remaining 80% or more is polyurethane compound which causes harm and possible ailments.

Another ploy of mattress-makers is to focus on the CertiPUR-US certification program administered by a non-profit organization which unfortunately allows Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emissions. Wary and responsible consumers must pay attention to such details and avoid the health risks coming from these commodities.