What's in Your Mattress:
Toxins, Mold and More?
Have you ever stopped to consider the mattress toxins you may be sleeping on? Below is a guest article from a mattress specialist, someone who has turned toxic-free sleeping into his career to ensure consumers know the safety of choosing the right mattress.
Traditional mattresses are full of toxins and other substances that most people aren't even aware of. With the following information and the accompanying infographic, the hope is to raise awareness about what many popular types of mattresses introduce into one of the most intimate spaces in your home (your bedroom), which just also happens to be where you spend approximately one-third of your life inhabiting.
The Stuff that Dreams (Aren't) Made Of
One of the main components of traditional mattresses sold in the marketplace today is foam. Most mattresses contain a polyurethane foam core. Polyurethane is notorious for harboring petrochemicals. What's wrong with that? Plenty. For starters, right from the get-go when setting up a new mattress in your bedroom, it may begin to off gas. Off gassing is the emitting of VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds). These chemicals have the potential for causing respiratory complaints, skin irritation, and being a trigger for other allergic responses. Many of these VOC's are known or suspected carcinogens. You're left with a veritable alphabet soup of mattress toxins wafting through your airspace. Some may say that these chemicals aren't in high enough concentrations to cause any ill effects. But, apparently that's not what these individuals experienced.
Fighting Fire with Fire?
All mattresses are required to have some type of fire retardant, one of the worst mattress toxins. Of course, it's in a consumer's best interest to have such, but you may be surprised to know what your mattress's fire barrier is made with. If it was made pre-2007, your fire barrier is likely made with PBDE's (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers). These man-made chemicals are toxic to the endocrine and immune systems, they are carcinogenic, and can cause toxicity to the reproductive system, potentially resulting in genetic defects. Definitely not something to be taken lightly. In fact, there was a recent study done that compared the PBDE's found in the mothers' milk of women living in the United States vs. women living in Europe. What was found was that American mothers had PBDE's in their breast milk in concentrations 75 times greater than their European counterparts. Circling back to if you're mattress was made after 2007 - unfortunately, you may not be in the clear - it seems that regulators have changed the requirements for flame retardants, simply switching from one harmful chemical to another. Whereas before mattresses contained PBDE's as the flame retardant, now many contain Boric Acid (roach killer). Hardly a healthful replacement to be sleeping with.
Mold and Mildew
Whether we are aware of it or not, it's a common occurrence for a person to sweat about half a pint each night. Given that most mattresses don't provide adequate ventilation, this moisture seeps into the mattress and can cause the buildup of mold and mildew. Furthermore, if it's a baby mattress we're talking about, the arsenic and antimony commonly used as preservatives and flame retardants, combined with a common household fungus (Scopulariopsis brevicaulis) from baby sweat and spit up can actually result in the production of three deadly nerve gasses - phosphine, arsine and stibine (according to a Midwifery Today article by Joanne B. Quinn, RMA, PhD). By the way, if a person does not have a natural mattress for their baby to sleep on, a helpful tip from the good doctor is to wrap the baby's mattress with a gas impermeable plastic. This keeps the gasses from contaminating the baby's sleeping area. Also use cotton bedding for your infant to minimize mattress toxins further.
Two additional concerns regarding traditional mattress toxins are dust mites and bacteria. Dust mites can be found in the thousands to millions in an ordinary, everyday mattress. In fact, if you are moving an old mattress, and find that it seems heavier than when you first installed it, it's probably because of the multiplication of dust mites and their waste products. As opposed to a hypoallergenic mattress that is naturally resistant to dust mites and is antimicrobial, dust mites and their waste products, along with the bacterial strains of Micrococcus, Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Psuedomonads, Bacillus, and others, can run rampant. Some of the side effects of dust mites and their waste products are allergic reactions and respiratory complaints. Bacteria from your mattress may cause fever, infections, and other symptoms.
The Silver Lining
If there's a silver lining to all of the mattress toxins madness, it's that you aren't being held hostage to the above intruders in your bedroom. That is, if you seek out a healthier alternative to a traditional mattress, of course.
Now that you are aware of the problem, thankfully there are a variety of natural solutions available in the marketplace today. Look for natural mattresses made with mattress cores and covers containing one or more of the following healthy ingredients: botanical latex, wool, cotton, horsehair, flax, tufted hemp, buckwheat hulls, millet hulls, or coconut coir. Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a clean bedroom with clean air and bedding is a boon to your health.