November 1st, 2011

Mattresses: How to Get a Non-Toxic Night’s Sleep

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organic mattress

It was time. I had already gone ten years beyond the suggested time frame for buying a new mattress.  I wasn’t tossing and turning, but my mattress was sagging and worn with a downhill slant.  Good indicators that it was time for a new bed.  However, the prospect of searching for a new mattress was daunting.

Over the years I never gave a lot of thought to mattresses. They were solely a place where each of us rested our heads at night-with comfort being the prevailing concern.  Recently I began giving a bit more thought to mattresses, especially since I was in the market for a new one. It bothered me that I was spending time researching the safety of personal care products, cleaning products and food and I had never given a second thought to our mattress. Let’s face it, most of us spend a lot of time in our bed. When it comes to infants and toddlers, they spend close to half of their early life in contact with a mattress and they are far more vulnerable to toxic chemicals than adults.  I have changed my tune-mattresses are worthy of a lot of thought.

Mattress dangers

Conventional mattresses can contain a whole host of toxic chemicals- from petrochemicals, blowing agents and adhesives used in foams, to dyes and additives used to process raw cotton fiber into textiles, to chemical flame retardants.

Polyurethane foam is used as filling in many baby mattresses. It deteriorates over time and can cause many health issues. It’s also extremely flammable. To battle this issue mattress companies cover their products in toxic flame retardants, which have been linked to reduced IQ, learning disorders, reduced fertility, thyroid disruption and cancer.

PVC is used as a covering on most baby mattresses to make them waterproof. PVC can cause a host of health issues.

Phthalates, associated with asthma, reproductive effects, and cancer, are generally added to the PVC to make it softer.

What to look for in an organic mattress

Let’s get this out of the way-organic mattresses aren’t inexpensive.  Fortunately, there are a wide variety to choose from and a wide range of prices, but they’re not cheap.  Be careful of mattresses labeled “all natural” or “green” . These terms aren’t regulated and can be thrown around loosely without a consistent meaning.

When buying a new mattress ask a lot of questions about how the mattress was made. The bottom line is to find a mattress that wasn’t doused in chemicals. Ask questions, talk to company representative and get answers.  It’s your right as a consumer.

Where to buy an organic mattress

Look for brands certified by GreenGuard.

There are a lot of online retailers selling organic mattresses, but very few retail shops. When I began my search for an organic mattress I had a hard time finding a store where I could test drive the mattress. I  found a small shop just outside of Boston that had a great selection of organic mattresses. Not only was I able to touch and feel the mattress, but I also was able to ask questions about the product. This was going to be a big investment and I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision.

Affordable alternatives

If an organic mattress won’t fit into your budget there are quite a few things you can do to make the beds in your home safer.

  • Consider using a futon made from organic cotton.
  • Invest in a quality mattress cover made with a safe material that will block off-gassing.
  • Buy an organic mattress, but don’t buy a box spring. If you are handy, build your own platform bed to house the mattress.
  • Healthy Child Healthy World had a great suggestion: for a baby shower gift have all of your friends chip in and buy your baby an organic mattress!
  • Let your mattress air out before bringing it into your home.

Do you have any non-toxic mattress tips?

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18 Responses to “Mattresses: How to Get a Non-Toxic Night’s Sleep”

  1. This was very helpful information! Thank you very much. I’ll definitely come back .

  2. Also, has great baby mattresses made out of all gel. Their a great alternative as well.

  3. Thanks Lori! This topic first came to mind a few years ago when I saw organic mattresses for sale in a Canadian furniture store in Ottawa called EQ3 ( I’ve been wanting one ever since but need to first save my pennies. :) There’s an EQ3 store in California, so maybe eventually they’ll make it east and come to Boston?

  4. A great tip about pitching in on a safe mattress as a new baby gift.

    It won’t be long until our boys need new mattresses, so I’m bookmarking this post :)

  5. I loved that idea too Amity. I’m a little too late!

  6. Looks like a great brand Andrea. It would be nice to have more retail shops selling quality organic mattresses. Hopefully they will become more accessible to all in the near future.You really do have to save your pennies, but once you have one it will last for years. Having peace of mind that you are sleeping on something toxin free is worth quite a bit!

  7. I love the baby shower gift idea, that is really smart. It’s true that when you have a baby on the way, the budget can be tight! Grt post…as always!

  8. Thanks Tiffany! I wish I had thought of the baby shower gift idea when my guys were babies.

  9. […] to- follow guide to buying affordable mattresses and bedding. I also shared a post on how to get a non-toxic night’s sleep and what to look for if you’re in the market for a new […]

  10. For all of you out there still looking for a great organic mattress, I’d suggest checking out Savvy Rest. They have customizable options at a good price, and the certifications to back up their mattresses:

  11. Several mattresses have been integrated with gel layers to provide comfort to hospital patients. The Intelli-gel mattress, for instance, was used for burn patients. This is also the mattress preferred by institutions and facilities that take care of elderly people.

  12. […] even more time sleeping. I did my research and found that conventional mattress usually contain petrochemicals, flame retardants, dyes, PVC, Phthalates and the list continues. I wanted to make sure we were all having a sound and healthy sleep. We have […]

  13. Also, since a good mattress can be costly, I’d recommend a good organic waterproof mattress pad to protect it. Naturepedic makes great breathable covers.

  14. […] each of us rested our heads at night-with comfort being the prevailing concern. But the truth is conventional mattresses can contain a whole host of toxic chemicals – from petrochemicals, to dyes and additives and chemical flame […]

  15. […] each of us rested our heads at night-with comfort being the prevailing concern. But the truth is conventional mattresses can contain a whole host of toxic chemicals – from petrochemicals, to dyes and additives and chemical flame […]

  16. […] […]

  17. […] precious baby sleeps about 20 hours per day. lying on its back on a mattress covered by bedding & dressed in sheltering clothes. her skin is an absorbing organ. this means […]

  18. I really liked this article. Just perfect on time because I’m having an issue with my mattress. I enjoyed reading the content, I pay attention most to the “affordable alternatives” part. Thanks for sharing!

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us.

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