Conventional mattresses, made with petroleum-based polyurethane foam, have routinely been treated with brominated fire retardants including polybrominated biphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, while conventional bedding is covered with fabric treatments that may be contaminated with formaldehyde. Water- and stain-resistant Teflon- and Scotchgard-type coatings are manufactured using toxic perfluorinated chemicals that are widespread in the environment and our bodies.
To avoid these chemicals, you can choose a mattress made with a natural latex core padded with cotton and surrounded with wool, which is naturally water-repellant and flame retardant. Look for labels that say it meets the CPSC and State of California fire retardancy standards for mattresses. To benefit your personal health, it need not be made with organic cotton or wool, which are more of a benefit to the environment; and, non-organic mattresses--and especially futons--are more affordable. Since crib mattresses are so much smaller, organic versions are less pricey.
If you don’t want to pop for a new green mattress, you can block a lot of VOCs—and allergenic dust mites—in your old one by encasing it in a tightly woven barrier cloth, or covering it with a wool or cotton mattress pad. Mattress pads are not advised for cribs, which shouldn’t contain any padding, but can be given extra protection with a flat wool “puddle pad.” For extra adult luxury, choose a topper with a natural latex core.
Below is a list of companies who make greener bedding, mattresses and top pads without PBDEs* or PVC**. Where noted, they also are good sources for untreated sheets, comforters, pillowcases, and bedcovers. (the $ indicates most affordability):
Acorn Innerspring from The Natural Bed Store $ (organic cotton, wool)
Duxiana: Their breathable latex-and-cotton top pad is dreamy.
Earthsake (organic cotton and PureGrow wool); comforters, bed linens, pillows.
Greensleep (organic cotton, wool and silk)
Lifekind (organic cotton, natural latex); comforters, pillows, sheets, blankets, duvet covers
Magniflex memory foam with some greener options (bamboo, wool, latex)
Natural by Colgate crib mattresses(coconut coir fiber, organic cotton, regular cotton)
Naturepedic $ (organic cotton, regular cotton, polyethylene)
The Futon Shop wool mattresses and toppers
The Organic Mattress bedding, mattress toppers (organic cotton, natural latex, also toppers and bedding)
Room and Board lightweight down duvets(natural latex, no springs)
Shepherds Dream wool comforters (wool)
Vivetique (organic cotton, hemp, and PureGrow wool)
Ecobedroom.com all-season wool comforter encased in unbleached cotton, softest touch.
Gaiam kapok-filled organic cotton comforter; kapok is the fluffy white fiber in the seed pod of the Asian ceiba tree and is harvested sustainably without cutting the tree.
Heartofvermont.com organic cotton covered and filled comforters cat=Double%2FQueen+Comforters+and+Covers
*Shown to cause behavioral and developmental problems in animal studies, PBDEs are pervasive in the environment, found in women’s breast milk and the fat of harbor seals, and easily migrate out of products into house dust and air. Environmental health advocates call PBDEs “ the new PCBs,” referring to the now-banned industrial chemicals that caused lower I.Q.s in the children of women who ate PCB-contaminated fish. See Washington Toxics Coalition's excellent summary of possible health risks,.
**Although PVC was banned from being used in crib and children’s mattresses in late 2009, it may still be present in mattresses made before that time, and new mattresses, as well as bedding, may be treated with water- and stain-repellants that can release formaldehyde, another toxic and volatile chemical that readily evaporates from products.