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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." Since that report, the news about household chemical exposure has only gotten worse.
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. Now a dangerous new flame retardant, FireMaster 100, has been introduced to replace PBDEs. Potent insecticides are often sprayed on mattress materials. If a mattress has been “treated for dust mites,” that means some materials have been sprayed with or soaked in an insecticide solution.
Common mattress additives have many worrisome long-term effects, particularly on the developing brains of children. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been linked to autism, ADDH, and even lower IQ. This is why we also make the Savvy Baby, our organic crib mattress. Avoiding these chemicals is critical during pregnancy, so organic mattresses are important for adults, too.
Scientists have called the proliferation of industrial chemicals in the environment and in our homes “A Silent Pandemic.”
Synthetic chemicals may make some mattresses comfortable, easier to manufacture or cheaper but, in our view, this does not justify damage to our health. In addition to neurological damage to infants and children, evidence also links chronic low-level chemical exposure to chemicals to cancer, obesity, and infertility. 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 can be a significant health issue with mattresses and pillows. Dust mites, microscopic insects that are a common component of house dust, set up housekeeping inside mattresses, and their droppings can trigger allergic responses such as nasal congestion, headaches, and asthma attacks.
Mold, mildew, pet dander and fungi also cause breathing problems and can worsen asthma. The best solution is to protect mattresses with organic mattress encasements and use pillow allergy covers. Using a HEPA air filtration system in the bedroom and frequent vacuuming with a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner will also minimize the buildup of allergens.