Few people give much thought to what makes their mattress so comfortable. If it is cozy and allows a good night of sleep, then why does it matter what it’s made of? However, it is worth knowing what materials go into your mattress, especially considering that the average person spends 20 of their first 60 years of life laying on a mattress.
Many mattresses on the market today contain synthetic materials and toxins that have a negative impact on health. According to the EPA, the carcinogen Formaldehyde is a common component of non-organic mattresses that can cause irritation to the respiratory tract. But Formaldehyde is just the tip of the iceberg: petroleum-derived polyester, fire retardants, polyurethanes, and pesticides are additional health hazards commonly found in mattresses.
What’s a mattress made of anyway?
Unknown to consumers, formaldehyde is commonly used in the ticking found on mattresses. The EPA warns us that formaldehyde can cause burning sensations in the eyes and throat. It can also cause nausea and breathing problems. Some people are especially sensitive and may suffer from wheezing and coughing, develop skin rashes, and have severe allergic reactions. Formaldehyde has been linked to cancer in animals and humans.
Legislation requires that mattresses be fire resistant, and this means that materials, which aren’t naturally fire resistant, must be fireproofed. Unfortunately, the fire retardants used in nearly 90% of beds are not healthy to sleep on. Fire retardants have been linked to skin irritation, memory and learning difficulties, damage to lungs, heart, and kidneys; birth defects, and several kinds of cancers.
In addition to these chemicals, mattresses often contain polyurethane foam or are made entirely of it. This foam ranges in quality from that used in most mattress comfort layers to the sought after memory foam mattresses.
Polyurethane is a petroleum-based foam that is supposedly inert. However, it can produce a dust that leads to skin, eye, and lung irritation, and anyone who has slept on a new memory foam mattress can attest to its chemical aroma. Regardless of the safety of polyurethane foam, it is a flammable material and is treated with flame retardants when used in mattresses.
Organic Alternatives for Mattresses
Awareness of the health hazards of mattresses has led to an increased demand for organic options. Indeed, one California based mattress company has seen an annual increase of 40% for its natural mattresses. It’s not hard to see why organic mattresses are becoming so popular: Despite the fact that most of us unknowingly do, few people would willingly spend one third of their life laying on a toxic mattresses.
The best materials for organic mattresses are organic cottons, wools, and latex rubber. Natural latex rubber is made from the sap of the rubber tree, and it has some pretty amazing properties. Not only is it hypoallergenic, but it resists dust mites, bed bugs, and is naturally fire resistant. This is good news for bed makers who are often forced to spray fire retardants on otherwise non-toxic mattresses.
Organic wools and cottons are great alternatives to synthetic materials. Wool has the added bonus of being flame retardant, and it can be wrapped around a mattress to create natural fire-proofing. Additionally, wool has been said to have many restorative properties that make it an ideal mattress material.
Comfort of Organic Mattresses
Foam mattresses have become highly popular. Memory foam, originally developed by NASA and first marketed as Tempur-pedic foam, is by far the most sought after mattress material. Memory foam mattresses, despite their toxicity, offer health benefits to sleepers by reducing pressure points and providing an extremely comfortable surface.
Fortunately, natural latex foam has many of the same properties as memory foam– but without the associated health hazards. Like memory foam, latex molds to the person’s body and then returns to its original shape. It also has a similarly long life span and can easily last thirty years. Best of all, latex mattresses come in a variety of densities, so it’s possible to find a soft or firm feeling latex mattress.
Organic Mattress Buying Tips
Sticking to organic latex, cotton, and wool is the best way to ensure a healthy sleep. Organic beds will cost considerably more. Natural latex foam core mattresses will cost the most, but some wool and cotton mattresses are more economical. One note about latex: latex rubber can be synthesized too, so make sure your prospective latex mattress is derived from natural latex rubber.
Despite the higher cost of organic mattresses, the health benefits make them worthwhile. Many of todays health ailments are the likely result of chemical-laden mattresses. In addition, high-end organic options tend to outlive their non-organic counterparts. Just think, a new organic latex mattress will feel brand new three decades from now!