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What’s in your mattress? The Washington Post reported that “….Of the nearly 80,000 chemicals regularly bought and sold today, according to the National Academy of Sciences, fewer than 10% have been tested for their capacity to cause cancer or do other damage."
Many chemicals used in conventional mattress manufacturing today have proven negative effects on health. Flame retardants such as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers in use until banned in 2004), boric acid and antimony are highly toxic. Potent insecticides are often sprayed on mattress materials. If you hear that a mattress has been “treated for dust mites,” that means some materials have been sprayed with or soaked in an insecticide solution.
Other common mattress additives may have worrisome long-term effects, particularly on the developing brains of children. This is why we also make the Savvy Baby, our organic crib mattress.
The proliferation of such chemicals in the environment and in our homes has been called “A Silent Pandemic.”
Synthetic chemicals may make mattresses comfortable, easier to manufacture or cheaper but, in our view, this does not justify potential damage to our health. Research has shown that all of these chemicals wind up in our bodies after eight hours of breathing and full-body contact, and what we do manage to discharge finds its way into the environment.
Allergens are a significant health issue with mattresses and pillows. Dust mites, microscopic insects that are a common component of house dust, set up housekeeping inside most mattresses, and their droppings can trigger allergic responses such as nasal congestion, headaches, and asthma attacks.
Mold, mildew, and fungi also cause breathing problems and can worsen asthma. A partial solution is to swaddle every mattress and pillow with encasements or “allergy covers.” When encasements or bed linens are removed for washing, however, large amounts of dust mite debris will escape into the air. Using a HEPA air filtration system in the bedroom and frequent vacuuming with a HEPA-filter-equipped vacuum cleaner will minimize the buildup of dust mites.