Are fire retardants used in mattresses sold in Canada?

Mattresses and pillows are “doused” in flame-retardants. It seems completely absurd to use a flame-retardant chemical on something that we spend a third of our lives sleeping on.

In Canada, mattresses are covered under the Hazardous Products Regulations. Health Canada has set fire safety standards that require that all mattresses and futons sold in Canada must resist catching fire from a smouldering cigarette. Because the vast majority of mattresses are made from a variety of petroleum-based materials, they are not naturally fireproof. So, in order to make these incredible fuel sources fire proof, manufactures apply fire retardants to them and this is where things start to get sticky.

The most commonly used class of flame retardants were the brominated flame retardants (BFRs).  BFRs contained PBDEs (poly-brominated diphenyl ethers), a group of chemicals that are highly persistent and which bio-accumulate in the environment and in the food chain. PBDEs have been detected in household dust, human blood and breast milk and they are suspected hormone disruptors and may cause cancer, as well as reproductive and developmental disorders. Individuals residing in North American have higher levels of PBDEs in their bodies than their European counterparts, where some PBDEs have been banned.

Some mattress manufactures voluntarily phased them out as more and more people become increasingly concerned about the long-term health impacts of these and similar chemicals. These companies that voluntarily removed PBDEs from their mattresses then began using another chemical group that has the acronym TCEP, which represent the chlorinated phosphate esters and these, too, are facing restrictions in the European Union.

So, how the heck do you find a mattress that won’t suddenly burst into flames but isn’t dipped in a bath of chemicals? Well that depends on what you’re willing to spend. Dormio Organic Beds retails latex mattresses made with 97 percent pure rubber tree milk stabilized with zinc oxide as its bonding agent. It is covered with 100 per cent certified organic cotton, and wool batting is added for moisture control and for its natural flame retardant properties. These mattresses start around $1500 for a queen.

The bottom line is that most mattresses on the market are either petroleum-based, coated in one flame retarding product or another, or emit significant levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). To purchase a truly green and healthy mattress you will likely have to spend more than you are probably used to spending on a mattress. That said, we do spend a third of our lives in our beds and, when it comes down to it, a good, toxic-free sleep is priceless.

Dormio Organic Beds…naturally better

Best selection of natural and organic quality mattresses and bedding in the GTA!