When buying a mattress, it’s vital to choose one that is made only with non- toxic materials. You may assume that if it’s an organic mattress it must also be non-toxic, but that’s not always the case.
First, why is it so important to buy an organic mattress? A typical mattress is made with polyurethane foam as the filling material. Polyurethane foam is made from petroleum with added toxic chemicals. Possible health effects can include cardiac arrhythmias, breathlessness, chest discomfort, irritation of mucous membranes, coughing, asthma-like reactions, blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, weakness, and fatigue. Memory foam can even be worse since it contains even more potentially harmful chemicals.
An organic mattress contains natural materials as the filling – usually organic cotton. Or you may find a natural latex or wool mattress. These are all great natural materials, but there are some factors to consider when looking for an organic mattress that is truly non-toxic.
An organic mattress with cotton filling is a good choice. Cotton is a breathable and firm mattress material, but make sure the cotton is 100% certified organic. Cotton is a crop that is grown with a lot of pesticides and these chemical residues can remain in the cotton. So for health and environmental reasons, it’s important to find an organic mattress that contains cotton that is certified organic.
Natural latex can be safe, depending on how it’s manufactured. You really need to check fully into what chemicals are used in the latex manufacturing process. Many manufacturers use a blend of latex and chemicals and still call it natural latex. Natural latex can be allergenic, a concern especially for children. (the FDA won’t allow a latex product to be called hypoallergenic). Wool is used in many organic mattresses and is a great bedding material, but can also be allergenic.
How can you tell if a mattress is truly organic and non-toxic? Find a mattress manufacturer that is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified. GOTS is the recognized organic textile processing standard for mattresses. A GOTS certification means that the mattress meets stringent organic and non-toxic standards. It’s also a good sign if the mattress has passed GREENGUARD standards. But you may have to do some additional checking with some of the GREENGUARD approved mattress manufacturers. There are very small amounts of certain chemical off- gassing allowed by GREENGUARD. Find a manufacturer that passes with zero emissions for formaldehyde, aldehydes, and phthalates.
Beware of labels saying the mattress is green, eco-friendly, bio foam, or soy foam. Most of these mattress manufacturers simply replace a small portion of polyurethane foam with plant-based components. Therefore the mattresses remain predominantly polyurethane foam.
It is illegal for mattress manufacturers or retailers to sell a mattress in the U.S. unless it passes flame retardant standards. Organic mattress manufacturers are not exempt from these requirements. They may add fire retardant chemicals such as PBDEs, boric acid, or other chemicals that may be toxic. It’s important to thoroughly check into what is used to pass the fire standards.
No mattress may be sold in the U.S. without being flame retardant unless the customer presents a doctor’s prescription for a chemical-free mattress. So if you are not being asked for a doctor’s prescription when buying your organic mattress, it contains some sort of flame retardant material.
You can find an organic mattress with natural, non-toxic and safe alternatives to chemical fire retardants that will pass the standards. Pure wool has natural fire retardant properties. If you find a mattress manufacturer that uses wool, make sure that the wool is organic and there are no additional chemical treatments to boost its fire resistance.
Another non-toxic fire retardant material is a combination of baking soda and hydrated silica. This natural fire prevention compound was designed by an environmental scientist. It is completely safe and passes all state and federal fire laws.
Fortunately you can find an organic mattress that is non-toxic and chemical-free. You simply have to know what to look for and what to avoid. An organic mattress is a good investment in your health as long as you find one with truly safe and non-toxic materials.