The Truth About Your Mattress

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We literally spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping. That’s quite significant if you really think about it.

Now, it’s easy to assume that everyday items (such as our cosmetics, drinking water, and household items) are completely safe. We aren’t accustomed to asking questions and sadly just assume that the everyday items we use must be safe if they’re being sold in stores.

This assumption comes with a cost, your health.

One of the everyday items that we typically don’t question is our mattress.

The Truth about Your Mattress: What’s Inside Might Surprise You

Here are some common toxins hiding in conventional mattresses:

PBDEs and other Flame Retardants
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)
Pesticides
Antimony (poisonous chemical linked to reproductive problems)
Formaldehyde
Plastics (including PVC)

These are linked to reproductive damage, thyroid problems, endocrine disruption, brain damage, and even cancer.

Babies and young children are even more impacted by the harsh chemicals found in mattresses and bedding.

In fact, “a team of environmental engineers from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin found that infants are exposed to high levels of chemical emissions from crib mattresses while they sleep.” (3)

They found that the exact chemicals that are in cleaning supplies and fragrance sprays, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) were also in crib mattresses, off-gassing and exposing infants.

Related Post: A Beginner’s Guide to a Nontoxic Home

What’s even more alarming is that in their research, they learned that mattresses emitted VOCs at rates higher than those of indoor materials such as wall coverings and laminate flooring. (Pretty scary!)

Infants and young children are highly susceptible to these chemicals, which leads me too…

SIDS and Toxic Mattresses: A connection?

“Back to sleep” is the campaign we were used to hearing when the US was aiming to reduce the number of infant deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. But was the position of the baby really to blame for the ~2,000 infant deaths each year?

New Zealand took a different approach to reduce rates of SIDS. They began wrapping baby mattresses in a polyethylene cover, which prevented off-gassing of these toxic chemicals. The result? Not one baby died on a mattress wrapped properly with polyethylene (see below for safety information of polyethylene).

I’m not making any claims here, I’m just here to provide you with the information so you can make an informed decision for yourself. But it is definitely food for thought.

Did you know that our bodies do the majority of healing when we sleep?

“More specifically, when one sleeps, the brain resets itself, removes toxic waste byproducts which may have accumulated throughout the day… This new scientific evidence is important because it demonstrates that sleeping can clear “cobwebs” in the brain and help maintain its normal functioning.” (1)

Since our bodies are healing while we sleep, it’s important not to be inhaling these harmful chemicals.

This is why it’s important to choose a healthy & nontoxic mattress (and bedding!) whenever possible.

What You Can Do to Avoid These Chemicals

What to Look For in a Mattress and Bedding

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Next time you’re in the market for a new mattress, sheets, or pillows, look for nontoxic and organic options. You’ll be protecting your health and reducing the chemical burden on your body (a win-win!)

Look for a brand that offers truly safe options and are transparent about their certifications and test results (like this one). They offer everything from mattresses and baby beds, to organic sheets, pillows, and bedspreads.

I use their Organic Kapok pillows and love them! Not only can I ‘rest assured’ knowing that they are organic and nontoxic, but they are incredibly comfortable and completely customizable.

They ban the following chemicals from their mattresses:

  • chemical flame retardants
  • formaldehyde glue
  • cardboard, metal coils, particle board, and plywood
  • veneer, polyester, polypropylene, and polyurethane
  • toxic stains, dacron batting, feathers and down

They also use certified organic wool, certified organic and natural latex, and certified organic cotton.

Oh, and unlike most mattresses that last for just several years, they have a 20-year warranty on their mattresses (If that’s not impressive, I’m not sure what is!)

Beware of Marketing Claims

Just like cleaning supplies and even personal care products are often greenwashed, mattresses are also greenwashed. In other words, you can see all sorts of buzz words like “natural” or “nontoxic” and it doesn’t really mean much.

For example, a mattress can be labeled “natural” or “organic” and only contain some organic materials, without any restrictions on harsh chemicals.

Organic Certifications That Actually Mean Something

the-truth-about-your-mattressGOTS: The Global Organic Textile Standard requires 95% of the mattress to be certified organic materials and prohibits flame retardants and polyurethane.

GOLS: Global Organic Latex Standards also requires that 95% of the materials are certified organic, with the the-truth-about-your-mattressaddition to the latex in the mattress being organic. Also prohibits the use of harmful chemicals.

Look for Green Guard and Oeko-Tek, which are organizations that test mattresses for specific chemicals.

What you can do if it’s not in the budget

If a nontoxic mattress isn’t in your budget right now, don’t worry! There are a few things you can do in the meantime to prevent off-gassing and reduce your exposure to these chemicals.

You can wrap your mattress in food-grade polyethylene (which is the safest form of plastic and does not contain harmful phthalates or dioxins). This will reduce off-gassing significantly while you save up for an organic mattress.

A note about polyethylene:

“Environmental scientists agree that low density, food-grade polyethylene is the safest plastic available. It has a simple molecular structure and does not contain phthalates or other unsafe additives. Unlike the production of vinyl, dioxins and other toxic chemicals are not released into the environment during production of low density polyethylene. This is the material used for the mattress covers designed to prevent SIDS in the crib death prevention campaign in NZ.” (source)

If you recently bought a new mattress, allowing it to ‘air out’ for a period of time in a well-ventilated area before you sleep on it will prevent you from being exposed to the chemicals when they are most toxic.

You can also begin by replacing your conventional sheets, bedspreads, and pillows with truly safe alternatives that don’t jeopardize your health! This will reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and help you begin your transition.

For even more ways to create a nontoxic home for yourself and your family, download my free eBook below.

beginners-guide-nontoxic-home

Have you considered how your mattress & bedding could be impacting your health? Has this information caused you to think twice?

Sources and Additional Reading:

The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep
Sleep Helps Healing
Crib Mattresses Emit Chemicals: Univ. of Texas Research
SIDS Research & Toxic Gas Theory
Crib Mattresses May Release Risky Fumes
No-Chem Bed Solutions

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Hannah Smith

Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.


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24 thoughts on “The Truth About Your Mattress”

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  1. This was great info. I will start saving for an organic mattress, but I learned in the mean time that I can wrap my mattress in food grade polyethylene.
    Thanks!
    Ig k4clife

  2. I did not know that all of these chemicals were in my bedding. I also did not know all of those health problems could be caused from sleeping on bedding with chemicals. So scary!

  3. I am familiar with savvyrest pillows and I’m very happy with them but i didn’t know all those facts about conventional mattresses (

  4. So much great info!! Thank you for sharing all of this. I have been doing a lot of research on organic mattresses and what kind of chemicals are found on the mattresses most of us own.

    I learned that you can wrap your mattress in polyethylene to reduce the amount of chemicals given off. Real organic mattresses are expensive, but I know they are worth it. Not something most of us have in the budget to spend at the drop of a hat though. We hope to get one one day!

  5. Great post! I didn’t know you could wrap your mattress in food-grade polyethylene to reduce off-gasping thats good to know as ive been saving for an organic mattress ☺

  6. Idk.. now I don’t wanna go to bed with all the toxic plastics. thats what I learned… from here and IG on yours.. inhaling chemicals 🙁

  7. I didn’t know that polyethylene covers reduced the risk of SIDS study, great to know and take into consideration with my nephew constantly over at his aunts!

  8. “You can wrap your mattress in food-grade polyethylene (which is the safest form of plastic and does not contain harmful phthalates or dioxins). This will reduce off-gassing significantly while you save up for an organic mattress.” Thanks will keep this in mind, I’m hoping to get an organic mattress within the next 6 months 🙂

  9. Oh my gosh, this is so scary!! This was all pretty new to me, but what saddened/shocked me the most are the infant deaths potentially related to crib mattress off gasing. I can’t believe chemicals are emitted at higher rates from mattessses than wall coverings and flooring, . I will need to change pillows, sheets, and get the mattress cover you mention for my bed! Thanks for the great info!!

  10. I did know about most of these things, though, but not the particulars. I guess our mattresses have always off-gassed because they have always been hand-me-downs (we can’t afford to purchase a new mattress ourselves). There are so many reasons why we should pay attention to what happens during sleep. Thank you for such an interesting article.

  11. I knew about the toxins in mattresses but I’m going today to get polyethylene covers. I’m so glad there’s a cover I can get because an organic mattress just isn’t in our budget, but I think we need organic pillows for sure! My daughter will be first to get one.

  12. I didn’t know a typical mattress edited VOCs and other harsh chemicals even more so than laminate! Ugh!! So glad we switched to an organic mattress upon the arrival of our baby almost 2 years ago ! 🙂

  13. Thank you for all of the information in this article- so helpful. I was very surprised to read about the SIDS/mattress connection.. hopefully more information can be spread about this worldwide!

  14. I really like your information on the crib mattresses. Not enough people pay attention to those facts & pay too much attention to getting the cheapest or most in style mattress. Love your page.

  15. Never really thought of how badly it can be for an infant to use a typical mattress and I’ve been aware for years how poor the standards are for manufacture. From now on I will always advise family and friends against a standard mattress

  16. I definitely learned about wrapping my nonorganic mattress with good plastic wrap! I’ll def be doing that once you let me know a brand! (like i said on my insta post!) Would love to win!!

  17. I never considered wrapping a mattress in plastic wrap to prevent off gassing! Might feel a little funny to sleep on though! Haha!

  18. So good to know that there is something that I can use to wrap current mattress until we can afford to change to a safe one. Thank you so much for writing such an informative post.

  19. Over the past few years I have been trying educate myself and my family about living a cleaner and healthier life. There are so many things we use daily that contain these chemicals. It’s hard to break it down and look at everything. Thanks to your blog post I realized how we are exposing our bodies tohemiclas when our bodies are trying to heal each night. Thank you for the info and new found knowledge. I’m looking forward to more!