Mattresses got much more toxic in 2007. Fire retardant standards in the US changed dramatically. Check out our infographic on organic versus traditional mattresses.
Non-organic mattress manufacturers make mattresses from man-made materials, most of which are petrochemical based, and then cover them in sprayed on chemical fire retardants, like formaldehyde, antimony, and melamine…all of which off gas into your families environment. Why not sleep in a chemical free sleeping environment?
Non-organic mattresses include polyurethane foams, glues & adhesives, perfumes & deodorizers & the like (see below), and flame retardants. These non-organic mattress manufacturers (as of 2007) must meet US fire retardant standards that basically call for mattresses to be fire proof (see below). They achieve these standards by spraying chemicals onto the fabrics in their mattresses. Which off gas into you. Petrochemical based of course means the materials are derived from oil. Oil is not a renewable resource, its is highly flammable, and contains many toxins (see below for real off-gassing test results). These toxins off gas out of these products into your bedroom atmosphere. For example, traditional memory foam mattresses off gas 64 voc’s (volatile organic compounds), nine of which are known carcinogens. This has been tested and proven.
A few links of interest on the topic:
- The truth about flame retardants
- Tribune Watchdog – Playing with Fire
- Urethane foam health effects
- Chemical makers fan the flames of fear
- Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy in the Nicholas School of the Environment
- Flame retardants linked to lower birthweight babies
- Toxic chemical in our couches
- Flame retardants & child development
- Momentum Builds for Legislation to Curb Use of Toxic Flame Retardants
- Chemical Regulation – Observations on Improving the Toxic Substances Control Act (PDF)
- Toxins in mattresses
- NBC – Sleeping with danger
- Toxic Chemicals in Furniture: What They are and How to Avoid Them!
- CBS New York 12-20-07 Toxic Mattresses
Reasons to Sleep Natural
Non-Organic mattress manufacturers make mattresses that off gas toxic chemicals. Our skin absorbs toxins. Our lungs breathe in these off-gassing, airborne toxins. There are two main culprits for where this off gassing comes from;
- The Fire Retardant Barrier on the mattress
- The Contents in the mattress.
FAQs- About Natural Organic Mattresses
The Fire Retardant Barrier on the Mattress
As of 2007, radical new fire retardant standards have been put in place in the USA. All mattresses sold in the USA must meet these standards by law. To reach these new standards, non-organic mattress manufacturers use chemicals sprayed on the fabrics of their mattresses. Chemicals such as formaldehyde, antimony, PDBE’s, and the like (see below for more info). These new fire retardant standards were pushed through Congress by special interests, including the cigarette lobby & the chemical lobby.
“We can buy things that are BPA free, or phthalate free or lead free. We don’t have the choice to buy things that are flame-retardant free…The laws protect the chemical industry, not the general public… current federal oversight of chemicals is so weak that manufacturers are not required to label products with flame retardants nor are they required to list what chemicals are used.”
-Dr. Heather M. Stapleton, Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Duke University
Common fire retardants (stereotypically use some undisclosed combination of the following):
- Unknown chemicals (manufacturers dont have to reveal what chemicals they use)
- Boric Acid
- Decabromodiphenyl oxide
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE’s)
- Antimony trioxide
- Vinylidene chloride
- Zinc borate
Why Known Carcinogens are Added to Mattresses
One might ask, with all the very obvious health risks of adding carcinogenic chemicals to our mattresses, why is this allowed? In 2005, California passed a law requiring any mattresses sold in the state to resist open flames. The entire United States then in 2007 adopted these same fire retardant standards. Now, to keep 1 in 1 million people from falling asleep with a lit cigarette and immolating themselves (and then suing the cigarette manufacturers), the US govt now bathes the entire population in a toxic soup of chemicals. Some experts estimate the laws will save a few hundred lives per year. What the lawmakers didn’t realize, was that these fire-resistant mattress mandates came with a nasty hidden cost.
The bottom line is, chemical spray on fire retardants are a cheap way for mattress manufacturers to attain the stringent fire retardant standards.
The Contents of the Mattress
If you don’t get an organic mattress, you can expect to find polyurethane foam in all mattress types. Even blow-up mattresses and water-beds usually have a layer of polyurethane foam inside them to help make a stronger seal. Memory foam mattresses are poly foam with additives. The comfort layers in traditional innerspring mattresses are polyurethane foam.
“Prolonged exposure to petroleum-based chemicals in products like urethane foam may affect the nervous and immune system and cause illnesses including cancer, neurological disorders, autoimmune weakness, asthma and allergies, infertility, miscarriage and child behavior disorders.” (Source; Livestrong.com) Read more about urethane foam health effects.
“Most mattresses are made from plastic foam products and polyesters, with a mix of flame-retardant chemicals added. The chemicals in bedding most often cited as potential sources of concern are pesticides, herbicides, fire retardants, stain-resistant solvents, the various substances in synthetic fibers, and formaldehyde. This combination may cause breathing, skin, and asthmatic reactions.”
Regarding traditional closed cell, petroleum based polyurethane MEMORY FOAM
Why Polyurethane Foam is Used in Mattresses
Polyurethane foam is used in almost every mattress type because its cheap, lightweight, strong and durable. The downside is that polyurethane foam tends to decompose or off-gas very slowly over time.
Off Gassing results from a traditional memory foam mattress. 64 v.o.c’s, some of which are considered carcinogens.
1,2,4- Methanoazulene, decahydro- Dodecane, 3-methyl
1,5,5,8a tetra methyl Heptylcyclohexane
1,2- Propanediol (Propylene glycol) Hexanal
1,4- Dioxane Hexasilxane, tetradecamethyl
1,6-Octadiene, 7 -methyl-3- (8CI9CI)*
methylene (Myrcene) Limonene (Dipentene: 1-Methyl-4-
1-Butanol (N-Butyl alcohol) 1 methyllethyl cyclohexene)
1- Dodacene Longifolene
1- Hexanol, 2-ethyl Naphthalene
1-Propanol, 2-chloro* Naphthalene, decahydro-*
2- Butanol, 3-methyl Naphthalene, decahydro-2-methyl*
2-Pentanal, 2-methyl Pentasiloxane, dodecamethyl*
2-Propanol (Isopropanol) Phenol, 4-(1- methylpropYI)-*
2-Propanol, 1,3-diehloro- Pinene, a(2,6,6-Trimethyl-
2-Propanol, 1-(2-Dropenyloxy) bieyelor3.1.1 ]hept-2-ene)
2-Propanol, 1-[1-methyl-2(2- Pinene, p (6,6-Dimethyl-2-meth-
propenyloxy) ethoxy* ylene bieyelo [3.1.1]heptane)
Azulene, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8-oetahydro- Propane,1,2,3-trichloro
1,4-dimethyl-7- 12.6(1- Propane, 1,2-dichloro
methyllethyllidene) Propanoic acid,2,2-dimethyl-, 2-
Benzaldehyde ethylhexyl ester*
Benzene, 1,2,4-trimethyl Silane, trichloro (chloromethyl)-*
Benzene, 1,3-diehloro Silanediol, dimethyl-*
Benzene, 1,4-diehloro Styrene
Benzene, 1-methyllethyl (Cumene) TXIB (2,2,4-Trimethyl-1,3-
Bicyclo [3.1.1] hept-2-ene-2-carbox- pentanediol diisobutyrate)
aldehyde Tetrasiloxane, decamethyl
Bicyclo [3.1.1] heptan-3-one,2,6,6- Toluene (Methylbenzene)
trimethyl-.1a,2b,5a* Trisiloxane, octamethyl*
Cyclohexane,1,1-dimethyl-2- Undecane, 2,6-dimethyl
propyl* Undecane, 2-methyl
Cyclohexane, octyl* Xylene (para and/or meta)
Cyclohexasiloxane, dodcamethyl* c- Decahydronaphthalene
Cyclohexene, 1-methyl-4-( 1- Cyclopentasiloxane, deca-
Cyclotetrasiloxane, octamethyl Cyclotrisiloxane, hexamethyl
Decane, 3-methyl Decane, 5-methyl*
*Indicates NIST/EPAINIH best library match.
Several of these chemicals, such as benzene, propane, styrene, and naphthalene, are recognized as possible Class C human carcinogens by the EPA, as well as other organizations.
Source; VOC measurements taken by gas chromatography together with mass spectrometric detection.
-from “Sleep Safe in a Toxic World” -by Walter Bader. Freedom Press. Copyright 2nd edition 2011.
Glues and Adhesives in typical mattresses
Mattress manufacturers use glues to bond the inner layers of mattresses together as well as to bond the fabric cover to the core. Adhesives can be rolled to bond each layer or can be diluted in water and sprayed over each surface to be bonded. This second application method allows manufacturers to call their glue a “water based adhesive”.
A water based adhesive is a simple process whereby water is mixed in with a solvent based adhesive to facilitate spraying the glue over each mattress surface. When the glue dries, all water molecules in the adhesive evaporate and only the adhesive which emit VOCs is left behind.
The long-term health effects that may occur after prolonged exposure to Volatile Organic Content (VOC) found in Adhesive/Glue solvents include cancers, damage to the heart, liver, central nervous system and kidneys.
Following is a list of chemicals found in non-organic glues:
- 1,1,1, 2-Tetrachloroethane
- Acrylate resins
- Asbestos Fluorinated polymers
- Beryllium and Compounds
- Carbon tetrachloride
- Cellulose nitrate plastic polymers
- Chromium and compounds
- Cobalt and compounds
- Cone essence
- Dioxins and furans
- diphenyl diisocyanate’
- Emulsion of Hevea brasiliensis milk in water
- Glycol ethers
- Halogenated benzenes
- Halogenated napthalenes
- Halogenated triphenyls
- Haologenated idphenyl ethers
- Hevea brasiliensis milk
- Hydrolyzed corn
- Lead carbonate
- Lead hydrocarbonate
- Lead sulfate
- metallic oxides
- Methyl benzene (toluene)
- Methylene dianiline
- Organo-tin compounds
- Perfluorocarbons Benzene
- Phenol-melamine resins
- Phenylcyclohexane Benzidine
- Polychlorinated phenols
- Polyvinyl acetate
- Thallium and compounds
- toluene diisocyanate
- Vinilideine chloride
- Vinyl acetate
- Waxes styrene-butadiene copolymer
In any kind of adhesive, the main ingredients are:
- Solvent/water carrier
- Solid component
Solvent or water carrier; It is the main ingredient in solvent and water-based adhesive formulations. The function of these formulations is to dissolve the solids ingredients that are deposited while bonding two surfaces.
All types of adhesives have solvent content except for hot melt adhesives which are 100-percent solid content and rely on heat to cure.
Solid component; The solid component is responsible for the bonding of two surfaces. It is usually dissolved in the solvent and is deposited on the surface when the solvent evaporates. Most of the adhesives use a polymer called as styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymer, as the solid component; except for the water-based adhesives that use latex.
Tackifying resin; Tackifying agents gives a sticky nature to the adhesives. The agent makes both surfaces in contact to “tack up”. Most of the adhesives use a rosin-based material as tackifying agent.
Antioxidants; Antioxidants are an important ingredient in mattresses adhesives because they protect the glue for getting oxidized in their containers. Antioxidants account for 0.1 to 1% of the total volume.
Surfactant; Surfactant is an important component of water-based adhesives constituting 0.5 percent of the glue. Surface-active agents are chemicals that increase the emulsifying, foaming, dispersing, spreading and wetting properties of a product.
Stabilizers; Some adhesives are unstable chemically or thermally, and need addition of stabilizers to function well. Some stabilizers neutralize acids and bases formed in the glue due to interaction between the ingredients.
Fillers; Some adhesives used in mattresses use fillers. Filers are high-molecular-weight substances like wax used for strength.
Perfumes and Deodorizers
Certain imported polyurethane memory foam products have industrial perfumes to mask the chemical odor that exists in their products.
Chemicals Found in Air Fresheners:
- Tributyltin maleate (carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity etc)
- Bonded quatermary ammonium chloride compounds
- Paradichlorobenzene (anticipated to be a carcinogen)
Certified Organic Latex Mattresses; The Most Healthy Solution
OMI Organicpedic, Naturepedic, and SavvyRest (our truly organic manufacturers) use no chemical fire retardants or polyurethane foams. Their latex sap is outside third party certified organic and chemical free by GOLS (the Global Organic Latex Standard). Every individual component that goes into these mattresses is certified, be it the organic cotton, organic wool, coco coir, etc.
Latex Sap is harvested from Hevea Brasiliensis (rubber) trees usually found within about 10 degrees of the equator. Generally rubber trees can be harvested for their sap about 160 days a year, and some sources say the trees recover within about an hour. The material is completely natural, and sustainable since rubber trees can produce sap indefinitely.
Not all Austin mattress stores have latex mattresses that are all natural, or organic. “Green washing” is rampant in the industry. Latex mattresses are sometimes polyurethane and chemical free (you’ll have to read the ingredients and check to see whether it’s truly organic), and sometimes they’re not. There are synthetic latex foams (not organic at all, and not safe from off-gassing), blended latex (interestingly enough still called “natural”), 100% natural latex foams (that are still not organic) and certified organic latex foams.
Unfortunately, even mattresses made with “natural” rubber (latex) usually have polyurethane foam cores and chemical fire retardant components. Many companies or even other Austin mattress stores proclaim “organic” with no certifications whatsoever. Some companies proclaim a mattress a “latex mattress”, when it is in all actuality 2 or 3 inches of synthetic latex on top of a 5 or 6 inch polyurethane oil based core, complete with glues & fire retardants and all the rest.