I have written before about toxic bedding and how to choose the right pillow (is your pillow toxic?), But now I want to share how to choose the right mattress. Enough, high-quality sleep with
I have written before about toxic bedding and how to choose the right pillow ( is your pillow toxic? ), But now I want to share how to choose the right mattress.
Enough, high-quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. Sleep allows the body to recover after a long day, balances hormones, and helps control stress. Lack of sleep can mean weight gain, reduced function, and an even higher risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. The first step to getting a good night’s sleep? Buying a wonderful mattress.
Did you know that over 90% of mattresses contain toxic chemicals associated with a growing number of health concerns? For example, some common chemicals found in the layers include polybrominated diphenyl ethers, boric acid, formaldehyde, and antimony. Switching to an organic mattress – made without the use of products such as GMOs, dyes, fragrances, and synthetic pesticides – will have benefits such as:
- improved posture and better comfort while you sleep
- “Still” carriage, which means you are less annoyed than others flying and turning in bed
- protection against toxins associated with cancer, lung and heart problems
- support for the use of environmentally friendly crops and processing
- reduced risk of sleep problems such as snoring and sleep apnea
- Protecting animals from inhumane breeding in order to obtain certain fabrics
- Physical body temperature control and fewer episodes of “hot sleep”
- reduced risk of allergic reactions due to phthalates, harsh fragrances, and dyes
- reduced risk of other problems associated with poor quality mattresses and exposure to chemicals such as neck pain, back pain, fertility problems, developmental problems in infants or children, and SIDS
Harmful chemicals in today’s mattresses
There are some substances that I believe should not belong to anyone’s mattress and are not used in some of my favorite organic brands. These chemicals include:
1. Flame retardants
In 1975, California passed the TB 117 Act, which required no slowing of the foam flame used to make furniture and mattresses to prevent common house fires caused by things like candles and cigarettes. Manufacturers have applied this policy to furniture sold in all 50 US states. Therefore, all traditional mattresses are treated with chemical flame retardants to prevent the spread of household fires.
Polyurethane foam is widely used in conventional mattresses and other products such as computer screens, televisions, and printers. The problem is that it breaks down into different VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are released into the air, which it then breathes at night. As polyurethane begins to break down, it can release polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are highly toxic chemicals that can remain in one’s system for long periods of time.
- According to the University of Texas Health Science Center, “their use is permitted in the United States, but is banned in some European countries due to its alleged toxicity, obsession, and bioaccumulation.”
- The European Commission considers PBDEs to be “persistent organic pollutants” (POPs), which are chemicals that remain in the environment, bioaccumulate through food tissue and pose a risk of adverse effects on human health and the environment.
- These chemicals can remain in the environment for a long time and have been shown to cause neurological, thyroid, and other developmental problems, so they pose a particular risk to infants. Ninety-seven percent of people in the US have been found to have PBDE in their blood – it is even found in young mothers’ breast milk! After the University of Texas researchers tested the breast milk of 47 breastfeeding mothers for 13 different types of PBDE, they found that levels in mothers from Texas, California, and Indiana were 10-100 times higher than those living in Europe where it is banned the PBDE.
- Research shows that people living in California are among those with the highest levels due to the TB 117 policy combined with other factors.
Efforts are now being made in the US. to ban PBDEs or reduce their use, as research shows that even after the disappearance of their original source, they continue to present a continuing health concern. Several states have begun passing laws banning the use of certain types of PBDE in household products, such as Washington, Maine and California, which now require manufacturers to use “fire-resistant” fabrics and materials rather than these chemicals.
However, upholstered furniture (such as mattresses, duvets, mattress pads, bed pillows) is not subject to TB117 revisions and therefore may still contain these chemicals at present.
2. Boric acid
Boric acid is a toxic chemical that is often used as an insecticide and cockroach killer, as well as in some lotions, dyes, and antiseptics. Many mattress companies use boric acid in their mattress liner to prevent bacteria, bugs, and other pests from being delayed.
According to researchers at Virginia Mason Medical Center, boric acid is a “dangerous poison” that can cause acute or chronic poisoning and other health problems. Acute boric acid poisoning usually occurs when one swallows products that contain the chemical (such as powder-killer powder), while chronic poisoning occurs in those who are repeatedly exposed to low levels of boric acid.
Symptoms of acute exposure are fatal, especially in young babies, and can include convulsions, blisters on the skin, and even coma. Long-term exposure is known to cause developmental and neurological problems in infants and adults. Inhalation of boric acid can lead to upper airway damage.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, odorless chemical commonly used in a variety of building materials and household products, including mattresses. Other formaldehyde-containing products include car emissions (the biggest threat to the public), cigarettes, glues, compressed wood products, and insulation.
Exposure is mainly due to the inhalation of formaldehyde fumes or vapors from the air or the absorption of formaldehyde-containing liquids through the skin. Most people come in contact with small amounts of formaldehyde on a daily basis, however, risk factors such as smoking, construction work, the medical sector, and the use of formaldehyde products increase the risk of side effects.
The National Cancer Institute reports that high levels of formaldehyde in the air can lead to a burning sensation in the eyes and nose, cough, nausea, and skin problems. (6) Long-term exposure can cause even more serious problems such as neurotoxicity, cancer, lymphatic system damage, or liver toxicity.
Antimony is a poisonous chemical similar to arsenic, but the difference is that antimony is metal and arsenic is more of a powder. Because it does not conduct heat well, antimony compounds are used to make materials, paints, ceramic enamels, glass, and ceramics. Exposure to antimony has been shown to contribute to reproductive problems, including problems with fertility and miscarriage. Exposure to relatively high concentrations of antimony is also known to cause eye, skin, and lung irritation and in high amounts can damage the liver and heart when people are exposed for a long time.
Another area in which antimony is being investigated is its relationship to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):
- There is now a collection of research showing that SIDS is most likely related to toxic chemicals heard in the crib that can be inhaled by sleeping babies, including antimony, arsenic, and phosphorus.
- The fungus begins to consume these three chemicals and produces three nerve gases (phosphine, arsenic, and stibine), which can be very deadly, especially for infants.
- Other studies have found similar findings, that antimony levels can be detected in the blood of babies who have died of SIDS.
5. Synthetic latex
Latex is commonly used in mattresses, even organic, but the jury still does not care about its safety. It is an important component of mattresses because it forms in the body, helping to relieve pressure points. Latex is produced from trees using either the Talalay process, which uses the more harmful, carcinogenic VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), or the Dunlop process, which produces mattresses that are considered very stable by many consumers.
Both types are chemical processes required to convert the juice from rubber to latex-friendly rubber mattress and both necessarily use VOC. While some of these compounds are rinsed when the rubber is firmly formed, some toxic VOCs remain and can be released into the air.
Therefore, I hesitate to suggest latex mattresses that are “mixed” – a combination of pure and synthetic latex. There are also “Natural” mattresses, which contain a higher concentration (up to 95 percent pure rubber), however, there is NO 100% pure latex layer. 100% Natural Latex is sometimes advertised because products that contain 95% or more organic ingredients can be called “100% Natural”. (10) In general, the cleaner and more natural/organic the better, but more research is needed to show the effects of even mixed types of latex mattresses in the long run.
The benefits of buying a “biological” mattress
As you can see, traditional mattresses are made with a variety of toxic chemicals. Not only do you put your health at risk by exposing yourself regularly to these chemicals, but like many people, you may find that synthetic mattresses make you feel hot when you sleep and fly and turn often. Contrary to what one might expect, the organic, organic fiber mattress can be very comfortable. This is true – some studies have even shown that those who sleep on layers of natural fiber, such as wool, tend to shed and spin less, resulting in better sleep at night.
Here are some important reasons to consider buying an organic mattress:
1. Organic wool is environmentally friendly and free of chemicals
The most popular options for non-toxic materials in organic mattresses are wool and cotton. Organic wool is a sustainable and environmentally friendly resource because sheep are not killed to gather wool. Organic wool, in particular, is produced without the use of hormones, chemicals, or pesticides.
Federal requirements for organic livestock, including wool, require: Feed and feed to be certified organic; synthetic hormones and genetic engineering are prohibited. The use of synthetic pesticides (indoors, outdoors, and in pastures) is prohibited and producers must follow good cultural and management practices when feeding animals.
In addition, wool mattresses have been shown to reduce back pain and help those who suffer sleep better. A study published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association found that participants who slept on a natural wool mattress reported reduced back pain after four weeks.
Wool is also great for regulating your body temperature, which makes sense as it serves the same role as sheep! As wool is a natural fiber, it really absorbs sweat overnight, allowing you to stay cooler in the summer but also helps keep you warm in the winter.
2. Organic cotton does not contain pesticides and supports organic farming
Farmers in the USA apply a significant amount of chemicals and pesticides to their cotton plants to give higher results. Cotton is also flammable, which is why products made with it are usually sprayed with flame retardants. Many farmers use genetically modified cotton resistant to pests and fungi. In fact, American farmers use about 12 kilograms of chemicals per acre, making it one of the most toxic crops grown in America.
Inorganic cotton sheets can also be treated with formaldehyde to prevent wrinkles. Therefore, it is vital to look for products made from 100% organic cotton, which does not contain pesticides or additives. Organic cotton farmers use natural fertilizers, such as legumes instead of fertilizers in their fields.
3. Organic mattresses work well with other beneficial products, such as grounding sheets
Have you heard of grounding? It turns out that our body is passing through a type of electricity. According to the Journal of Environment and Public Health, “the Earth’s surface has an unlimited and constantly renewed supply of free or mobile electrons… which can be important in regulating the biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms, and balancing cortisol levels.”
In other words, our body is naturally able to absorb electrical charges from the earth, as our skin acts as a “conductor”. Therefore, walking on the grass barefoot can help us get these beneficial electrical charges, and it turns out it can sleep on something called a “groundsheet”. Grounding sheets are a type of sheet that helps you ground the earth and transmit natural electrical charges, helping you reap the benefits of grounding while you sleep. Now you can find natural colored bed sheets online, 100 percent cotton, and available in different sizes to suit most mattresses.
4. You probably sleep better
If you have ever woken up with back pain due to poor sleep, you have experienced firsthand how a high-quality mattress can help with proper posture, orthopedic support, and spine alignment. Research shows that 45 percent of American adults are believed to suffer from sleep deprivation and one of the main reasons is due to aches and pains.
- People sleep better on mattresses with different levels of “support” or pillow. Keep in mind that when discussing corporate or velvet mattresses with retailers, it is important to note that these terms only refer to comfortable mattresses of one mattress, but not the actual mattresses that lie deeper below the surface of the mattress.
- A high-quality mattress will ensure that the mattresses have the right amount of strength and also “give”, to allow the right orthopedic support of your body while you sleep. The comfort levels work with the mattresses to give you the bounce and pillow level you desire.
- Keep in mind that many mattresses made of “memory foam” contain polyurethane, an oil-based material that emits volatile organic compounds. Polyurethane-based products also tend to retain body heat and can cause overheating or skin irritation.
- The goal is to find a mattress, as well as a sleeping position, that will keep your body and spine straight while you sleep. You also want to support your head and neck to prevent chronic sore throats. You should not damage the middle of the mattress, which can cause incorrect pressure on your spine. This can lead to waking up with a sore throat or back pain – and no one appreciates that!
- It can also be very helpful to get the best sleeping positions if you experience frequent aches and pains. Although everyone is different, most adults sleep better in a sideways position (think of the “fetal position”) with their legs curled up and perhaps a pillow between their legs. This reduces the chance of back pain, stiffness, snoring, and indigestion. It is also important to keep your head high enough so that your neck is almost level with the mattress and does not stretch.
5. Your mattress will still be flame resistant
If you are worried about your flame retardant mattress, you will be glad to know that wool is naturally flame resistant. Therefore, look for a mattress made of wool cover. Organic layers can be used with various coatings, slides, or sheets that are also made with organic materials and serve the same purpose as the flame retardant harsh chemicals.
The mattress I recommend the most
Replacing your traditional mattress with organic is a great way to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals, support organic farming and human breeding, get a better night’s sleep overall, and prevent annoying back pain or in the neck.
Here are the basic tips related to buying a mattress:
- Try to look for a layer without chemical fire retardants, ideally made of wool or organic cotton.
- Be sure to ask the retailer to purchase a mattress that does NOT contain PBDE, formaldehyde, or boric acid.
- Mattress manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals used in their beds, but you can do a quick internet search to find the best brands or go to a store that specializes in organic, natural bedding.
- If possible, look for a custom mattress that allows you to customize the support and comfort mattresses to your needs.
My favorite brand of organic mattresses is Naturepedic. *
What makes Naturepedic organic mattresses unique and worth buying? Some of the benefits of Naturepedic Organic Mattresses, which are produced without the use of the chemicals described above, include different levels of comfort and stability, as well as meeting high environmental standards.
Sleeping well is one of the best things you can do for your health, so why not make your mattress healthy too?