It seems crazy that something we spend one third of our lives on might be toxic. Yet while your mattress isn’t toxic in the sense that it’ll kill you on contact (well, not likely anyways), it may have some less-than-desirable ingredients. Most people think of non-toxic mattresses for a new baby’s crib – but we deserve a chemical-free sleep too!
What’s in Conventional Mattresses
Most conventional mattresses are made with polyurethane foam. This is derived from petrochemicals and can offgas VOCs long after the product is brought into your home. If you have particular sensitivities, you may notice an increase in headaches or other reactions after sleeping on a new mattress.
Because synthetic foams are so flammable, they typically require a chemical flame retardant to meet safety standards. PBDEs were commonly used flame retardants that are now banned in Canada (though may still be in imported products). They are pervasive in the bodies of people and wildlife around the globe. These can imitate thyroid hormones in our bodies and disrupt their activity. Though the effect of low doses is unknown, a CDC Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals indicates that effects on animal studies suggest “thyroid function impairment” and they’re on EWG’s Endocrine Disruptors Dirty Dozen.
As chemicals are banned, new ones take their place in the market without necessarily being proven safe. It often takes years of a product being in people’s homes before a substance will be deemed potentially dangerous and ultimately removed from production.
What to Look For in a Mattress
Natural fibres, such as cotton or wool, are naturally flame resistant and therefore typically do not contain flame retardant chemicals. While wool isn’t suitable for those with allergies, natural mattresses won’t offgas VOCs like conventional foam-filled products. In addition, many brands use certified organic materials, demonstrating commitment to the environment and further reducing potential exposure to chemicals.
You can also look for GREENGUARD certified products. These may contain synthetic chemicals, but the 3rd party certification demonstrates the product meets maximum emissions levels of certain chemicals. Here’s a list of common marketing terms used to make a mattress sound healthy, but don’t tell the whole story – be an informed consumer!
Non-Toxic Mattress Brands
Naturepedic is one of the most recommended non-toxic mattress brands. They feature certified organic cotton and latex rubber without use of chemical flame retardants. In addition to full-size, Naturepedic offers crib mattresses with high waterproofing performance without vinyl or PVCs (vinyl is a carcinogen and PVCs typically contain phthalates which are hormone disruptors).
Sleeptek is a Canadian company that uses certified organic cotton, latex rubber, and wool in their bedding products. They also use Canadian wood for their bed frames. (I have a shredded rubber pillow that I picked up from Organic Lifestyle and am loving how it retains its loft more than conventional pillows.)
Obasan mattresses are made in Ottawa with certified organic cotton, latex rubber, and wool. They offer custom designs for a comfy and healthy sleep.
There are a TONNE of new mattresses coming on the market that claim various forms of “green-ness”. Some are alright, but others are just plain green-washing. Make sure you do your research on their claims before you invest!
Where to Buy a Non-Toxic Mattress
Investing in a natural mattress is just that – an investment. They are more expensive than conventional mattresses, but might be one of the most important changes you can make in your home.
Organic Lifestyle is a Toronto-based online retailer of healthier products for your bedroom and home. I’ve been working with Dihan, the founder of Organic Lifestyle, for a little while now and love his approach to healthier homes as well as customer service (because I’m a customer too!).
No matter what mattress you choose, allow it to off-gas outside of it’s packaging and ideally in a well-ventilated area away from your living space for as long as possible. If a new mattress is in your future, do you research and have a look at your budget. Do what you can to start saving money to make a healthier mattress a reality. Your body will thank you later.