Toxic Truths

Have you ever wondered exactly what you're sleeping on at night? 

What about the things that are inside?

The average conventional mattress contains more toxic chemicals than a 50-gallon oil drum, according to scientists.

In 2005, a memory-foam model was found to emit 61 different chemicals, including the carcinogens benzene, which is a colorless volatile liquid hydrocarbon present in coal tar, and petroleum, used in chemical synthesis. Its use as a solvent has been reduced because of its carcinogenic properties and the naphthalene, which is a volatile white crystalline compound produced by the distillation of coal tar, used in mothballs and as a raw material for chemical manufacture. 

Although bromine- and chlorine-containing flame retardants are still used in some products, the need for new alternatives is being driven by a confluence of policy, standards, and pressure from environmental groups. Europe banned the use of two formulations, PBDE pentaBDE and octaBDE, in 2004, the same year they were withdrawn from the North American market.

Most mattresses also contain:

-- Polyurethane foam, a petroleum-based material that emits volatile organic compounds that can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation.

-- Formaldehyde, which is used to make one of the adhesives that hold mattresses together, has been linked to asthma, allergies and lung, nose and throat cancers. 

Polyurethane is extremely flammable, and when it does burn, it burns hot and fast. To combat this hazard, the average mattress is drenched in flame retardants, both brominated (PBDE) and chlorinated (TDCP/TCEP). These compounds have been linked to reduced IQ, learning disorders, reduced fertility, thyroid disruption and cancer. So, how do you know if your mattress is full of toxic flame retardants? You don’t. Most manufacturers don’t even disclose their ingredients.

In addition to the concerns regarding glue and fire retardants, the composition of the material used to create the mattress itself is also important. Knowing what exactly is in your mattress will help you determine the danger levels.

  • Innerspring Mattresses: Typically contain poly foam (see memory foam below) in quilting and padding layers, nearly always contain adhesives.

  • Traditional Memory Foam & Poly Foam: May contain around seven toxic chemicals (1,1,1,2 Tetrachoroethane, acetone, and dimethylformamide, Methyl benzene, Methylene dianiline, toluene-neoprene and Vinilideine chloride). Often contain adhesives between core and upper layers.

  • Synthetic Latex: Typically contains around five non-toxic chemicals (2-chloro-1–3-butadiene, diphenyl diisocyanate, metallic oxides, Phenol-melamine resins, sulfur, Tellerium). May or may not contain adhesives. May or may contain polyurethane fillers.

  • Natural Latex: May have around six non-toxic chemicals (acrylate resins, diphenyl diisocyanate, Phenol-melamine resins, Phenol-urea, Polyvinyl acetate and waxes styrene- butadiene copolymer) in addition to the natural hevea milk, fats, and water. May or may not contain adhesives.

There is a better and safer option!

- Wool is commonly used in organic mattresses because it is inherently less flammable. Dust mites don’t grow well in it, and it handles moisture well, too.
Natural latex rubber is another option. Source your mattress carefully though, choosing one with no chemicals added during production. Latex protein has also been linked with allergies in some people, so use caution.
 - Wool pads are great for non-waterproof mattresses because wool is moisture-resistant and dries quickly.