Non-Toxic Mattresses and What’s in Flame Retardants

Restorative sleep is important for health and wellness. Do you know what you’re sleeping on? Have you ever wondered if materials in sleep products have been tested for their effects on human health?

For those wanting to avoid harmful chemicals, the onus is on us to put time and energy into asking questions and perhaps, shelling out more cash in the process. Why does it seem nowadays that we have to pay more money, spend more time and effort to avoid toxic materials and ingredients? At least, that’s been my experience. We have to pay to not be exposed. I was a bit shocked to read that not only is it tougher to avoid toxic chemicals in bed, Americans who want beds made without retardants will have to get a prescription! The system again makes it tough, really tough and I have to question the narrow reasoning behind some of what’s going on.

What is going on is a law has been passed, requiring California mattress/furniture makers to add flame retardants to their products. The number of deaths due to mattress fires annually in the US has been reported at 700, although these figures have been disputed and many claim the number lies around 400.

Over the years, US law has progressed from protecting people from cigarette fires to in 2007, upping the resistance to open flame like those in candles. Now, furniture must resist flame for at least 30 minutes. To do so, regulation allows the use of chemicals such as boric acid (roach killer), antimony, formaldehyde and chlorine in the flame retardants. And this is where you have to ask, “Is it a good choice considering the small risk of death from mattress fire?” For those of you thinking I’m just anti-industry, a quick search of antimony in Wikipedia leads you to a skull and crossbones, along with this: “Antimony and many of its compounds are toxic. Clinically, antimony poisoning is very similar to arsenic poisoning. In small doses, antimony causes headache, dizziness, and depression. Larger doses cause violent and frequent vomiting, and will lead to death in a few days.” WTF!?

For US residents willing to risk death by mattress fire and who opt for a non-toxic one, options exist. You can order a non-toxic mattress with a prescription from a physician, chiropractor, or osteopath licensed or otherwise permitted to practice by any State of the United States. In other countries, like the UK, use of fire retardants in mattresses is law. In Canada, there is no such law. Check your own country’s regulations.

When reading labels, a mattress might company might state its mattress is “free of bromine retardants” which are being phased out around the world. Make sure to ask if any retardants have been added and what materials were used. Companies may label the absence of PBDE’s (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers) but add other retardants. The now controversial PBDEs are being studied and phased out in some countries. Similar to PCB’s which were phased out in the US in 1977, PBDE’s pose a health risk to both humans and pets, especially cats. Read these findings of several studies.

Check into each material used in the manufacturing process. Cotton stuffing and foam may have been treated. It’s good to ask for a breakdown.

Wool is being used as a natural fire retardant in organic beds. However, non-toxic, organic beds can cost an arm and a leg. It’s enough to make you want to crawl back under the covers and dream of better laws!

Copyright Lynn Argent, 2008. Reproduction without the written permission of the author is prohibited.

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About Lynn

Blogger, talkcaster and teacher.
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