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This article originally appeared on The Sovereign Investor on October 8th.
You spend at least 25 percent of your life sleeping in a bed full of poison. Turns out, flame retardants in mattresses subject you to eight hours of sleep spent inhaling toxic chemicals linked to life-threatening health problems.
In an ironic twist, this is because the government has made our beds poisonous … in order to protect us from our beds.
These deadly government regulations essentially force us to accept some fantasized, nonexistent threat of arson lurking in our bedrooms. It’s as if we should be afraid that our mattresses are planning to commit mattress-cide, spontaneously combust and take us with them.
As usual, we’re left to suffer the consequences of their perceived safety measures.
Fortunately, there is a relatively unknown and definitely underappreciated way to satisfy the Federal safety mandates and avoid harmful exposure to toxic sleep.
Danger: Flame retardants lurking in your mattress
Flame retardants are among several toxic chemicals that go into the manufacturing of your mattress. And we have regulation to thank for that.
According to the International Sleep Products Association:
Federal regulations 16 CFR § 1632 and 1633, administered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), require all mattresses sold in the United States to meet flammability standards.
And what’s an easy, cheap and ethically abhorrent way to meet Federal flammability standards?
Use flame retardants in mattresses.
Try saying the chemicals involved five times fast: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), boric acid, antimony trioxide, decabromodiphenyl oxide (DBDPO) and tris phosphate (TCDPP).
To be fair, PBDEs are no longer allowed because no fewer than 4,000 studies linked them to conditions including thyroid, liver and neurological toxicity, as well as cancer. But if you’re sleeping on a mattress made before 2005, there is a good chance it is full of PBDEs.
Ironically, the original purpose of PBDEs was to meet government’s mattress standards. So the government essentially ushered them in, realized their mistake, and then scrambled to take them out. It inspires a lot of confidence, doesn’t it?
Those other hazardous retardants and chemicals, however, still make it into new mattresses. That means the current list of dangers includes reproductive and developmental issues, heart, lung and kidney damage, and cancer.
To be honest, I had trouble figuring out precisely what retardants and chemicals are still used today. I probably overlooked some, but that’s because there are no labeling requirements for flame retardants in mattresses.
But that’s all the more reason to steer clear of conventional mattress companies.
Like most regulations, this mattress fiasco is full of good intentions but is inherently flawed. Sure, the risk of fire is reduced, but the dangers to the consumer are actually broadened.
You couldn’t script this comedy of errors if you tried
About 90 percent of house fires originating from a mattress or upholstered furniture are caused by a cigarette. The flammability standards I mentioned were enacted to prevent people from lighting their house on fire if they fell asleep with a lit cigarette in their hand.
Now, did you know the majority of mattresses sold in the USA also contain a petroleum-based product called polyurethane foam?
Probably not, because the American Chemistry Council is one organization that fights to make you believe common products concocted from chemicals pose no risk to you.
I’m here to tell you otherwise. Polyurethane foam does pose a serious risk to you.
To be clear, it’s not another flame retardant — quite the opposite. Polyurethane foam is the cushioning material in your mattress (and surely in your upholstered furniture, too). Many harsh chemicals are needed to produce it. As a result, the nervous and immune systems are vulnerable to polyurethane products. Cancer, neurological disorders, autoimmune weakness, asthma and allergies also are possible.
And when it burns, it emits thick, toxic smoke. Did you know most fire-related deaths are due to toxic smoke inhalation rather than direct contact with flames?
And — are you ready for this? — Polyurethane foam is the reason mattresses go up in flames so quickly.
It’s a highly-flammable material! What should we expect?
When polyurethane burns, it creates what’s known in the industry as the “flashover,” the point where it instantly triggers the ignition of surrounding combustible materials. Some fire experts call polyurethane foam “solid gasoline.”
Yes. I’m serious. And it’s almost funny.
Regulations require manufacturers to prevent the flammability of a highly flammable and highly toxic material. Rather than, say, get rid of the polyurethane foam and choose a natural material that doesn’t burn like gasoline, most manufacturers meet these Federal requirements by applying highly toxic chemicals to the highly flammable foam.
You can’t make things like that up.
Luckily, there are options for those of us who would like to escape this circus of flaming hoops.
It’s time to wake up
There are two popular styles of mattresses on the market today: memory foam and spring. Memory foam was the more comfortable answer to the safe and all-natural latex foam mattress. Conventional memory foam, however, is loaded with toxins. Spring mattresses also haven’t had problems delivering on comfort. But conventional spring mattresses use all kinds of toxic materials, including foams, non-organic cottons, adhesives and more.
Luckily, there are two alternatives to those toxic beds you’ve been sleeping in …
The memory-foam solution: Essentia is the only manufacturer in North America that makes all-natural foaming.
They use Hevea milk from a rubber tree plantation in Indonesia to produce their all-natural memory foam and Dunlop latex foam. They also use essential oils and other plant-based components, instead of petroleum products, in production.
And they use 100 percent organic cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) to complete their products. Think of it as the cherry on top.
The spring-mattress solution: One company has been recognized above its peers for providing conventional comfort without the conventional chemicals.
NaturePedic offers extremely safe and customizable spring mattresses.
I met the company’s sales director at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore I wrote about recently. She told me the story of how NaturePedic’s founder, Barry Cik, started the company for his first grandchild.
Prior to founding NaturePedic, Barry spent 25 years in environmental engineering. He knew the hazards of conventional mattresses. And he sought a mattress that would be safe for his grandchildren. When his quest failed, he decided to develop a safe mattress for infants.
Ten years have passed and NaturePedic now provides organic mattresses and products for the entire family.
At the expo, I sat in on a presentation by representatives in the organic products industry. That’s when I learned Barry (sitting in the front row) was recognized a day earlier with the Organic Cotton Association’s Rising Star Award.
Not bad. Congrats, Barry!
I have good news and bad news
Bad news: Your body has already been exposed to years of emissions and has probably suffered notably, without you even realizing the culprit.
Good news: If you want to put an end to this and want to switch to a certified organic mattress, or if you’re in the market for a new mattress anyway, Essentia and NaturePedic are two players who are doing things the right way.
That should let you sleep easy.
To quality living, JR Crooks Editor, Sovereign Living