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)
Antimony (poisonous chemical linked to reproductive problems)
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
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
GOTS: 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 addition 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.
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 is the founder and health educator at Healthfully Hannah, empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s personal health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Feel free to send Hannah a message here.
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