What is lurking in your mattress?

In my search for a new toxic-free mattress, I realized that most are not aware of the toxins that are under their very head each night. How many hours a night do we spend sleeping? If you are sleeping on a conventional mattress, that is 7-8 hours of constant exposure to chemicals. A tradtional memory-foam model was found to emit atleast 61 chemicals.

Conventional mattresses are pretty much full of nasty, toxic chemicals and made of materials that are linked to a huge list of serious health complications including SIDS, asthma, allergies, reproductive toxicity, respiratory problems, skin irritations, cancer, and more. And if we have genetic SNP’s that affect our ability to detoxify these chemicals, the problem becomes that much worse.

Here’s a list of some of the most common materials used in conventional mattresses:

* Foam
~What makes foam toxic?
Both Polyurethane Foam and Memory Foam are petroleum-based and full of toxic chemicals. They break down over time, causing major off-gassing of VOCs into the air you breath. They are also extraordinarily flammable. As a result, these beds are often soaked in the most powerful and dangerous chemical flame retardants.
~How can foam affect your health?
The harmful chemicals used to make foam break down over time. In fact, a polyurethane foam mattress loses HALF its weight over ten years of use! Where does the weight go? It’s released into the air around you and you breathe in these chemicals.
~Manufacturing Caveats
Manufacturers still use foam because it is inexpensive and lightweight. Please be aware that some manufactures will market their product as having “plant based foam”. What they aren’t telling you is that they only use a small percentage of plant oil (5-20%). The other 80-95% is still polyurethane foam! You may have also heard of CertiPUR-US” certification. Unfortunately “The Guidelines were established with guidance from the global foam industry.” In other words, the global foam industry created their own guidelines for certifying that their foam is safe. The CertiPUR-US stills allows for VOC emissions.

*Synthetic Latex
~What makes latex toxic?
Synthetic Latex is made from two petroleum-based compounds, styrene and butadiene. Both of these are VOCs and can do serious harm.
~How can synthetic latex affect your health?
According to the EPA, chronic exposure to these compounds can have effects on the central nervous system. These compounds can also cause headache, fatigue, weakness and depression. Some of the other side effects of chronic exposure are hearing loss, peripheral neuropathy, and an increased risk of leukemia, lymphoma or cancer.
~Manufacturing Caveats
Synthetic Latex is much cheaper to produce than natural latex. Similar to foam mattresses, companies will often start with synthetic latex, then add a bit of natural latex. They then will market the blended latex as “natural latex,” even though it is still primarily synthetic latex. Be sure to look for 100% Natural Latex. The company is most likely blending it if the percentage is not clearly stated.

*Flame retardents
~What makes flame retardents toxic?
Because Chemical Flame Retardants don’t fully bind to materials, they are released over time into your bedroom. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to serious lifelong health problems.
~How can chemical flame retardants affect your health?
Flame retardants such as PBDE’s have been linked to cancer and nervous system disorders. PBDE’s have been banned in many countries. Some other conditions linked to flame retardants are delayed puberty, delayed reproductive development and neurobehavioral changes and disruption of thyroid hormone
~Manufacturing caveats
In the sixties, the government passed into law that all mattresses must pass a flammability test for safety reasons in case of fire in the home. Mattress companies add these chemical flame retardants because it is an inexpensive way to meet federal flammability standards. There are alternatives to chemical flame retardants. For instance, wool is able to act as a natural flame retardant, but this is more expensive and time-consuming to produce, and thus not commonly used.

*Vinyl
~What makes vinyl toxic?
The production of Vinyl uses toxic, harmful chemicals from start to finish. These chemicals, which have been shown to cause severe health problems, leach out during use.
~How can vinyl affect your health?
Additives in making vinyl include phthalates and heavy-metals that have been shown to trigger asthma and allergies, cause genital defects, cause ADD in children, cause cancer and birth defects.
~Manufacturing Caveats
Vinyl is a cheap way for manufacturers to make beds waterproof & bacteria resistant. This makes them especially common in baby mattresses!! If a mattress claims to be waterproof, there is a good chance they are using vinyl since it is one of the cheapest ways to do this. Unfortunately they are not required to list this.
* Formaldehyde
~What makes formaldehyde toxic?
This common toxin is used in mattress glues. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas but it has a distinct chemical odor.
If you have ever opened a brand new polyurethane memory foam mattress you will be well aware of the pungent aroma of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde toxicity is a serious issue. Your body can absorb the gas either by breathing it or through the skin and eyes.
~How can formaldehyde affect your health?
Formaldehyde exposure has been linked to asthma, allergies, and lung, nose, and throat cancers

There ARE alternatives to mattresses that house all of these toxic chemicals. You just have to do your research and ask questions. Mattress companies WILL try and hide the truth from you and the leniency of federal regulations in the U.S. certainly doesn’t help the situation.

What type of mattress are you sleeping on? Have you shopped around for another alternative? Or are you already well informed and have purchased an eco-friendly mattress? I would love to hear your story. Feel free to comment below.

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