Here’s something to think about the next time you buy a mattress: how well do you know what you are sleeping on?
Many of us would not link our mattresses with global warming, but taking a closer look reveals that the manufacturing of mattresses and bedding is one of the major non-fuel uses of petroleum.
Most mattresses are made with large amounts of global warming-linked, synthetic petroleum-based chemicals like acrylonitrile, polyethylene, teraphthalic acid, ethylene glycol, polyester, nylon, and polyurethane (PU) foam.
Not only are these toxic petrochemicals bad for your health—they seep into your skin and off-gas into your lungs—but, like all petrochemicals, their production creates greenhouse gases.
Unfortunately, the safety of these chemicals alone or in combination is not well understood, but what we do know suggests they could be causing significant damage to our health.
Even very low levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), a flame retardant commonly used mattresses and upholstered furniture are now very known to affect the health of the developing fetus.
Another petrochemical used in mattresses, perfluoro octanoic acid (PFOA), is a suspect carcinogen.
We also know that in addition to being toxic to the human body, these harmful chemicals contribute significantly to greenhouse gases in our environment.
One study showed that these chemicals are doubling in concentration in the environment every two to five years, when measured in people and wildlife throughout North America. However, consumer demand for healthier products has caused manufacturers to take note and offer green alternatives in mattresses and bedding.
Eco-friendly mattress manufacturers are springing up in many places, selling mattresses made from natural materials like organic cotton and natural latex (from rubber trees), and containing little or no toxic petrochemicals.
Lifekind, for example, is the single largest purchaser of organic cotton mattresses in the United States and uses an exclusive non-chemical sterilisation process to sanitize its raw materials. Although they use absolutely no brominated flame retardants, their mattresses still comply with federal and state flame retardant laws.
Modern Comfort’s mattress is made from 75% recycled or recyclable materials and uses non-chemical agents such as green tea extract, bacteria-killing nano-silver, and insect-repelling cedar wood oil.
When it comes to wood for your bed and mattress frame, the most verifiable green products are those that bear the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label.
A Natural Home also offers bed frames from locally sourced, non-clear-cut solid oak and uses tung oil (derived from nuts and petroleum-free) for their finish.
Futons offer another alternative to the traditional synthetic mattresses. Often made from cotton or wool, they require less energy to make and are biodegradable.
Buying sheets, comforters, and other bedding, made from natural materials is also a good idea. Choose organic cotton or wool rather than cotton-polyester blends (as polyester is derived from petroleum). They are often more comfortable too.
Indeed, sleeping on a healthy, green bed is an important decision with a recognized real impact on our environment, our health, and our planetary future.
Take a look in your bedroom(s) and see where you can begin to make changes today! Buying an organic mattress is totally worth it.