Are there toxins in your mattress?
This is one of those tricky hidden places where massive amounts of toxic chemicals are lurking in our every day life and most consumers have no clue. We spend an average of 1/3 of our life in bed. Young children spend almost half of their formative years in bed. Does it disturb you to know that 90% of mattresses contain extremely harmful chemicals like polyurethane foam, pesticide doused GMO cotton, boric acid, antimony, silicon, melamine, formaldehyde, and decabromodiphenyl oxide.
Lets look at the health effects of these one by one:
- Polyurethane Foam: Off-gassing VOC’s, respiratory distress, skin and lung sensitivity, eye and lung irritation, bio-accumulative, heavy metals that slowly leech out, endocrine system disruption. Source
- Chlorinated Tris: Infertility in men and women, cancer, neurotoxin. Source
- Pesticides: Nervous system disruption, endocrine system disruption, carcinogenic. Source
- Boric Acid: Hair loss, skin sensitivity, eye irritation, endocrine disruptor, reproductive health issues, carcinogen. Source
- Antimony: (AKA Arsenic) that is known to cause kidney and liver damage, and cancer, skin, eye and lung irritation, heart problems, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, death. Source
- Silicon (dust): Respiratory issues, skin and eye irritation, carcinogen. Source
- Melamine: Nephrolithiasis, chronic kidney inflammation, and bladder carcinoma. Source
- Formaldehyde: Eye, nose, and throat irritation, wheezing and coughing, fatigue, skin rash, severe allergic reactions, cancer. Source
- Decabromodiphenyl oxide: Toxic to the endocrine and immune systems, carcinogenic, reproductive toxicity, genetic defects. Targets neonatal (baby during pregnancy) development of liver, thyroid and endocrine system. Neurological changes and seizures. Source
I would like to note that many of these accumulate quickly in the tissues and blood of babies and young children, where the highest toxicity levels are found. I would also like to note that these are all required to be in baby gear sold in California including mattresses, sheets, pack n play, swings, bouncers, high chairs, and other baby items with cloth or padding on them. Read more about childrens clothing in “Are Your Childs clothes Toxic“.
Why are these in my mattress?
I hate to brake it to you but its not just your mattress! These chemicals are in most furniture and childrens clothing. Most of these chemicals, except for the polyurethane foam and silicon, are what furniture companies use to make the furniture fire resistant, in accordance with California flame retardant standards TB 117, which have acted as a defacto national standard since the 1970′s requiring fire retardants in anything from furniture to pajamas. These fire codes were put into effect to prevent fires in the home caused by falling asleep smoking. Now, to meet these standards, testing requires treated materials to withstand a long duration exposure to a blow torch like flame. I don’t know about you, but we don’t keep blowtorches in the bed.
In my research I heard tell of a bill introduced in California to change the requirements of TB 117 like this article, but I have not been able to find if it has been passed or not. If you have any information about this please share.
The really ironic thing is once these DO catch on fire, they actually burn hotter and faster than natural materials causing an even higher risk of completely destroying a home, and risking the life of everyone inside it.
How can I avoid these toxins?
- First off, do not buy anything that meets California standards TB 117. These are doused in toxic fire retardants that will harm your health. This includes mattresses, sheets, pillows, bedding, curtains, chairs, couches, clothes, baby items, and more. If it says “Complies with California TB117″ don’t buy it!
- Buy local, as long as you don’t live in California. You may be able to find a company that makes custom mattresses and can avoid the toxins that are in mass produced mattresses.
- Buy non-toxic furniture, preferably meeting some sort of environmental safety certification. Make sure they are “Low VOC”, without fire retardant chemicals, and made from natural materials. I am a big fan of my Invigo mattress which has a special weave of rayon fabric that is fire resistant, without dousing it in nasty chemicals. You can read my review here.
- Check your fire alarms batteries every 6 months. Have at least one fire alarm on every floor. Preventing fires in the home is key to keeping the home safe! And no cigarettes or blow torches in bed. Keep open flames to a minimum in the home.
- Wrapping children mattresses can prevent the toxins from leaching into the kids. It may help reduce SIDS. You can wrap adult mattresses as well in a fine weave (300 thread count or higher) organic cotton.
Buy non-toxic furniture
I know I can’t afford to go out and re-furnish my whole house, but as we move to replace our furniture over time I am doing the research and avoiding as many toxins as I can. Some safe choices might be.
- Natural (not synthetic) Latex
- 100% Organic cotton, hemp, linen or wool
- Environmentally safe, ethically harvested natural woods that are not treated with toxic chemicals.
- Some eco-friendly certifications to look for are LEED certification, Certified Organic, if it has foam make sure it is Certi-Pure foam made from organic materials, FSC, BIFMA. You can click the links to read all about each and see what is most important to you.
- Go without! I just came across this really interesting video where this family lives without a lot of furniture. They still have mattresses. She says this is great for proper posture and body movement. Check it out.