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Mattresses in the Mainstream

Choosing a safer mattress

Mattresses in the Mainstream

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Robyn Windham
Development Director

Even though we spend eight hours each night sleeping on them, totaling almost one-third of our lives, most of us don’t put too much thought into our mattresses and bedding. Specifically, what they are made of. Unfortunately, our mattresses and bedding can contain chemicals that can have negative health consequences, adding unnecessary work to the task of rejuvenation while we sleep, and potentially limiting the body’s innate ability to preserve our health—not to mention expose us to toxic chemicals linked to cancer, fertility problems, hormone disruption, and more.

It’s good to see this topic making it into the mainstream, with more and more people talking about the health issues presented by the chemicals in the very things we sleep on and in. Here’s a news round up:

Detox Your Sleep Report

MADE SAFE recently put out a report on the materials that make up mattresses and bedding and how they affect our health, with a comprehensive look at safer alternatives.

Did you know that sheets labeled ‘wrinkle-free, no iron,’ and other terms can contain a formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen? Or that most mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, which is treated with flame retardants, linked to endocrine disruption, fertility issues and cancer? These aren’t facts that you want to think about as you drift off into a blissful and dreamless sleep, but they’re important for your health. Check out the Detox Your Sleep report for more facts, safer alternative materials, and MADE SAFE certified bedding options from Naturepedic, Lullaby Earth and other brands.

Flame Retardants Make Headlines in The Nation

The Nation explored the insidious connection between lead and flame retardants.

Flame retardants are of particular concern when it comes to mattresses. These chemicals have for decades, because of the greed of the chemicals industry and one wealthy family in particular, been added to many of the things we use in our daily lives. Thing is, they don’t prevent fires, and they’ve built up in our environment and our bodies. A new investigative report from The Nation uncovered that as many as 97% of Americans have flame retardants in their blood, and traces of the chemical can be found pretty much everywhere. Flame retardants are dangerous— they cause cancer, disrupt hormones and damage genetic material. Despite hard evidence of this, the government has never effectively regulated the chemical. Click here to read this startling report on the inner workings of the chemicals industry. (If it keeps you up at night, don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

Policy Changes in California

California passed AB 2998, approving a statewide ban on children’s products, mattresses and upholstered furniture that contain toxic flame retardant chemicals.

The bill, which will take effect in 2020, passed with bipartisan support and because of the size of California’s economy, will likely have a national impact. It’s encouraging to see any attempt to regulate flame retardants, and this bill is a step in the right direction for our health—specifically the health of infants, who are exposed more than adults, and firefighters, who breathe in the chemicals as they burn—converting to dioxins and furans, which are known to cause cancer. It’s also helped to shine light on the issue of unnecessary toxics in mattresses and furniture.

However, there are some loopholes that could be exploited by industry. For example, for mattresses other than juvenile mattresses, the ban only applies to the foam component, so the chemical can still be used on every other part of the mattress. There’s also interesting language about ‘intent,’ where manufacturers can still use these chemicals as long as they don’t intend for them to act as flame retardants. Until flame retardants are banned across the board (as they should be), no matter where you live, it’s still wise to buy from companies that do the right thing by not using these chemicals at all.

While we work toward changing the industry and passing policies that put our health first, we can start reducing exposures to toxic flame retardants at home by vacuuming often (preferably with a HEPA filter vacuum) as PBDEs like to build-up in dust, and avoiding contact with older foam in furniture. For more, check out these 7 ways to reduce your exposure to PBDE flame retardants from EWG.

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