We know this website is about vitamins, but we also know that most people reading it are interested in good health. We just think that good health is impossible when you are spending 1/3 of your life sleeping on a toxic mattress, so we put together this page on mattresses.
Non-Toxic Mattress & Bedding Extremely Important For Health
We are firm believers in non-toxic houses, but we realize that most people cannot change their entire house overnight. However, your bedroom should really be an "oasis" in the middle of all the chemicals you encounter all day long, a place of respite, where you can get a good night's sleep and allow your body to rejuvenate itself. If you are sick with any kind of chronic disease like cancer or asthma, you probably need a chemical-free bedroom more than others. Perhaps the most important thing in your bedroom is your mattress, bedding, and the bed frame, since you are so close to it all night long (we also highly recommend hard flooring in the bedroom and no particle board furniture).
Standard Mattresses are Toxic
Did you know that there are actually more chemicals in a conventional mattress today than are contained in a barrel of oil? Yes, that's right, most mattresses are made entirely of petrochemicals! Most people today sleep on mattresses made of synthetic materials like polyurethane, polyester and flame retardant chemicals.* These synthetic materials and the flame retardant chemicals in the mattresses cause us to breathe in toxins all night long, including PBDEs (polyborminated diphenyl ethers), formaldehyde and more.
* A 1973 law required mattresses to not ignite from a burning cigarette, but a new law requires mattresses to not ignite after being exposed to a 12 inch wide flame on the side for 50 seconds, and a simultaneous 10 inch wide flame on the top for 70 seconds. So how many more chemicals do you think will be in your mattress so it can withstand a couple blow torches aimed at it for around a minute??
Mattress Flame Retardant Chemicals
PBDE, a flame retardant chemical, has actually been banned in Europe because of toxicity. It will be banned in California starting in 2008, but for now they are letting the mattress manufacturers sell out their stock to the unsuspecting public. PBDE has been shown to cause all sorts of health problems, including cognitive and behavior changes during development, thyroid problems, permanent learning and memory impairment, ADHD, higher cancer rates and immune system problems. It is now found in high levels in mother's breast milk, undoubtedly due to its presence in our mattresses, and so is being ingested by babies, even though it has been shown to be much more toxic for infants and children.
Some other flame retardant chemicals used in mattress production include formaldehyde, antimony trioxide, boric acid (the roach killer) melamine and decabromodiphenyl oxide (a brominated flame retardant also being found in women's breast milk). Formaldehyde can cause headaches, insomnia, fatigue, excessive thirst, respiratory problems and more. Boric acid was found to be very toxic and even caused some deaths when used in a 3% diluted solution as a topical solution for diaper rash, but now it is used on mattresses, even crib mattresses! Many of these chemicals are known or suspected carcinogens. Some cause reproductive, liver, kidney, heart muscle and other damage. In addition, although flame retardant chemicals will keep the mattress from catching fire, you may not realize that if there is a fire, poisonous gases such as cyanide and carbon monoxide will be created that you will breathe in if you are near your mattress.
Other Chemicals in Mattress Materials
The chemicals used in making polyester that is a common mattress material that is possibly carcinogenic and may also damage the kidneys, the heart and the nervous system. All sorts of chemicals in conventional mattresses cause negative health effects ranging from headaches to cancer. Nighttime is when our bodies are supposed to be detoxifying, repairing and rejuvenating themselves. Do you really want to be sleeping on a mattress that is full of toxic chemicals, including ones banned for health reasons in other countries?
Metals in Your Bed and Bed Frame
Many people have mattresses and box springs with coils in them, as well as metal frames for their beds. These metal mattress coils are used for buoyancy, but it seems that they not only provide an unnatural type of support, but they also disrupt our natural electromagnetic field, which can cause all sorts of physical and other stresses of a subtle, yet profound nature. This is of course hard to prove, but there are many people who say they sleep so much better with no metal in their mattress or bed frame and no electrical current running near their mattress, like an alarm clock.
Synthetic Mattresses and Mildew
As if the disturbance of the electro-magnetic fields and the chemicals in mattresses were not enough, synthetic mattress materials also can easily form mildew as excess moisture is absorbed and often does not dry quickly enough to get rid of the moisture before the mildew forms. If the mildew is mild, like it often is, you may sleep next to this mildew without knowing it, but it is still harmful to your immune system.
Synthetic foam mattresses, like the memory foam, are all the rage today, and they are touted as helping people to get a better night's sleep. However, they not only off-gas toxic chemicals, but they also provide a non-breathing surface, which causes overheating and moisture build-up and a less than ideal sleeping experience.
Natural Latex / Rubber
Even natural latex mattresses, made with the sap of the rubber tree, don't breathe as well as wool and can cause you to overheat and feel the moisture buildup. In addition, "natural" latex can contain vulcanization chemicals, including sulfur and ammonia, which can be harmful. The real truth is that "natural" latex mattresses cannot be made without some of these additives. Most natural rubber is only 97% pure, and the other 3% are solvents used in the manufacturing process. In the Dunlop process, they add sodium silico fluoride.
One natural bed retailer told me: "All natural rubber to be made into latex has something in it. We have 99% rubber, 98% rubber, 97% rubber and 93% rubber and we call all of those 100% natural rubber latex." So there you have it, 100% natural rubber latex that is not 100% pure. Hmm, doesn't sound 100% natural to me. Let the buyer beware.
That said, many people feel their natural latex mattress is so comfortable, they would never give it up! If a natural latex mattress enables you to get a good night’s sleep, it is infinitely better than sleeping on a synthetic latex or conventional “memory foam” bed, which has numerous carcinigenic chemicals. Just try to find a latex mattress that is as natural as possible, and be aware that any mattress that is at least partially made with natural rubber can be called a "natural" latex mattress, even if 90% of the rubber used is synthetic!
Natural or Organic Cotton Mattresses
Most organic cotton mattresses use coils or latex in the middle, because the cotton compresses so much as to make the surface too hard without it. Cotton also has a low resistance level to mildew, since it tends to absorb water, and dust mites, and this can also cause health problems and keep you from having a good nights rest over time. If your mattress has "natural" (not certified organic) cotton, they probably did not use chemicals in the processing, but there are most certainly still pesticide, herbicide and defoliant chemical residues left over that you may be breathing in all night long. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops there is, in fact, it is estimated that cotton crops use 25% of all pesticides used in the US.
If you are thinking about getting a cotton bed with springs in it, you really owe it to yourself to spend a little more to make sure that it is organic. The Royal-Pedic line is probably more comfortable than most. Lifekind’s mattresses are probably more pure than most.
There is, however, another alternative that has helped many people to finally get a good nights rest without chemical exposure: The Wool Mattress by Shepherd's Dream.