Toxic Chemicals in Mattresses: How to Keep Your Family Safe
Is your family sleeping on mattresses that contain toxic chemicals? Here, we outline the most common warning signs and ways to alleviate related symptoms, like investing in the best organic bedding and organic mattresses.
Is Your Mattress Toxic?
Ideally, we should all sleep in a healthy, toxin-free environment. Read about the ways your mattress could be harming your family’s health and what to do about it.
1. Mattress Adhesives
Mattress adhesives are chemicals used to hold together the mattress’s various components and layers. A few common adhesives used in the manufacturing process are acetone-based, n-Propyl bromine-based and methylene chloride-based.
Acetone is a type of solvent used in adhesives. When used in high concentrations, it can cause health effects such as headaches, a lack of energy, unconsciousness, and respiratory problems. It can also result in mild behavioural effects, abdominal pain, and nausea when used at lower concentrations.
N-Propyl bromide can also cause problems if people are exposed to it for a long time in high concentrations. Symptoms related to overexposure include dizziness, slurred speech, and confusion, along with headaches, unusual fatigue, muscle twitches, and visual disturbances.
Methylene chloride irritates the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. These effects can be caused either by dermal exposure or through inhalation. Prolonged contact with the skin can also result in chemical burns. Additionally, one product of metabolized methylene chloride is carbon monoxide which can lead to delayed toxic effects.
2. Petroleum-Based Chemicals
Derived from petroleum, polyurethane is a foam commonly used in conventional mattresses. When it off-gases, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) escape into the air. This is the primarily cause of the unpleasant smell of new mattresses. VOCs can also irritate individuals with respiratory conditions, like asthma, or chemical sensitivities.
3. Flame Retardants
Chemical flame retardants commonly used in conventional mattresses, such as boric acid, antimony and halogenated flame retardants (HRFs), have been linked to numerous health problems. Since these chemicals don’t bind to the mattress, they often release into the bedroom over time.
Antimony is a heavy metal toxin that can result in problems with the lungs, heart and eyes. Boric acid, also commonly called boric powder, is known to cause respiratory and eye irritation. HRFs are considered the worst and linked to health-related issues that can affect subsequent generations. These include neurobehavioral changes and delayed puberty. The chemical is also known to harm nerve and brain function.
Most mattress companies add flame retardants to their products as it’s a cost-effective way to meet federal flammability standards. Unfortunately, many don’t disclose specifically which type they use in their products, making them all the more dangerous.
But there are alternatives. Organic wool, for instance, is a natural flame retardant, albeit a time-consuming and expensive one to produce.
How to Steer Clear of Mattress Chemicals
If you’re worried about chemicals in your mattress, it’s best to pick one with organic compounds, or an organic mattress with bedding, if your budget permits it. These products not only lower your exposure to toxins but are also hypoallergenic.
Here are a few qualities to look for when purchasing a new organic mattress and bedding.
● Organic Cotton
Organic cotton mattresses and bedding are both hypoallergenic. Their raw materials are grown without harmful chemicals like synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. This means that neither the growing nor the manufacturing process harms the environment as there is no chemical runoff. Being breathable and soft, organic cotton is generally used for mattress covers and other bedding items.
● Organic Wool
As mentioned, wool is a naturally flame-retardant material. It’s also antimicrobial, antibacterial, hypoallergenic, and mite- and dust-resistant. Organic wool mattresses and bedding are gentler for your skin and better for the environment and your family’s overall health.
● Organic Latex
Latex is a natural material made from sap harvested from the rubber tree. Organic latex mattresses are hypoallergenic, don’t off-gas, and are biodegradable. Note: there are synthetic latex alternatives (these are made from petroleum-based chemicals) so make sure you talk to your mattress provider before buying.
Knowing which chemicals have been used to manufacture your mattress lets you make a more informed decision regarding your family’s health. While you get the most out of your purchase, your family enjoys a restful and peaceful night’s sleep. With so many varieties available, it can be tough to choose the right organic bedding and mattress. Hopefully, we have helped you do just that.