Monday, April 15, 2013

Hello Green Mattress, Goodbye Toxic Hotbed

Spring cleaning should include our indoor air.  A reader recently asked me, “I’m looking for a green healthy mattress. What do you recommend?”

Because we spend about half our lives in bed, I recommend a  mattress made of natural materials and free of chemical treatments.  Alas, most conventional mattresses are stuffed with petroleum-based, polyurethane foam that can release, or “offgass,” volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have been linked to cancer, allergies, asthma and harm to nervous systems and children’s development.  These chemicals include toxic fire retardants that migrate into the air we breathe.

Greener Penny has long advocated against these synthetic chemicals. In 2010, we spoke with Heather Stapleton, a professor of chemistry at Duke, who warned against the health threats posed by widely used mattress fire retardants,  such as tris, which a study led by Stapleton found in house dust.   

In March, California proposed new rules  for fire retardancy in furniture and baby products that, if passed, will likely render these chemicals obsolete. Recent tests commissioned by the Chicago Tribune found that popular baby mattresses were hotbedsof toxic flame retardants

What to look for

Choose mattresses made from natural, renewable and untreated materials:  wool, cotton (in either, certified organic is greenest) and latex from rubber trees.

Mattresses wrapped in wool, a naturally fire retardant material, can meet the current  U.S. Consumer Safety Products Commission (CPSC)  “open flame” flammability standard (based on the California standard that the state is now poised to change).  standard without adding chemicals.

If you want a wool-free mattress that’s untreated with fire retardant chemicals, you’ll have to provide the retailer with a prescription from your doctor. Here’s a form you can download

There are now many companies selling greener mattresses in adult and crib size. They also sell less expensive futons or mattress toppers. All are available in a range of natural materials and prices. Here’s a list

See Playing With Fire,  The Tribune’s excellent investigative series on the chemical and cigarette industries 


cheeryl canete said...

Flip your mattress once a week to allow each side time to air. This can prevent mold growth. At the very least, do this every month or so. Be careful to check if your mattress can be flipped. Some have a designated topside and won't be as comfortable upside down.

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Emily K said...

Just bought a Healthy Choice organic mattress. Didn't see on your list and was hoping it was still a good choice. Please advise.


john patinson said...

I just thought it may be an idea to post incase anyone else was having problems researching but I am a little unsure if I am allowed to put names and addresses on here.
memory foam off-gassing