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Friday the 13th, 13 Scary Facts About Conventional Mattresses

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In honor of Friday the 13th here is a guest blog, from our sister company Lifekind, with 13 scary facts about conventional mattresses.

It makes sense that an organic mattress would use organic cotton, but beyond that, most people may not be aware of many reasons that organic mattresses really are so much better than conventional mattresses. Lucky for you, we are experts in this area, and can break it down for you.

Warning: If you’re unsettled by things that are creepy, crawly, or contaminated, do not read before going to bed!

1. Bed bugs, dust mites, mold, and germs love your mattress
Bed-bugs and dust mites love to live in the dank, dark inside of a mattress. The environment also provides the perfect environment for molds & fungi to thrive in, along with bacteria, viruses, and contagious diseases. Because conventional mattresses are typically made with man-made materials like polyurethane foam, they don’t have the inherent dust-mite resistance that is a feature of the 100%-natural rubber latex used in the organic mattresses we make at Lifekind.

2.Your new mattress may not be new
Conventional mattresses can be sold, used, returned, and then resold as “factory seconds” or “refurbished.”  Even when they are “sterilized” with chemicals, many nasty things can be left behind.  A Dateline investigative report found bed bugs in all stages of life and death, blood, numerous forms of fungi and mold, and occasional traces of urine and fecal matter in refurbished mattresses that were in the same factory and sales-floors as new mattresses.  Only 26 states have laws on selling refurbished mattresses, and the government isn’t setting a standard on proper sterilization, which means it’s up to the mattress builder to determine whether or not a mattress is sterilized.  In the Dateline report, all of the mattresses tested were contaminated.

3. It’s pumped full of hazardous chemicals
Even if your mattress is brand new and uncontaminated, you’re not in the clear yet.  Did you realize that formaldehyde and boric acid are just two of the chemicals commonly used in the manufacture of conventional mattresses?  When Walt Bader, our CEO, was writing his book Toxic Bedrooms, he had a memory foam mattress tested by an independent lab and it emitted 61 VOC chemicals?  The chemicals used in your new mattress can aggravate allergies, cause respiratory irritation or bronchitis, affect your hormone levels, and even limit the amount of oxygen your body is able to absorb. Some chemicals are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxins, with warning labels advising “Caution – do not inhale,” “Use in a well-ventilated area,” “Can cause irritation,” or “Avoid contact with skin.”

4.   It can adversely affect the quality of your sleep and health
Cellular repair, rejuvenation, growth and healing all take place while you sleep. The chemicals that are used in the manufacture of conventional mattresses can cause all kinds of discomfort, and even illness. The range of symptoms can be as varied as the people affected, but one thing is for sure: If you’re sleeping on a toxic mattress, you’re not experiencing optimal health. For more details about the effects of sleeping on a toxic mattress, check out chem-tox.com

5. The bed you sleep in can harm future generations through inherited toxicity
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones that are totally unaffected and have children who sleep well without allergies or complaints, you can be certain that your grandchildren will show detectable amounts of harmful chemicals – even before birth!  Scientists have confirmed that chemical fire retardants, such as those used in conventional mattresses, have been measured in pregnant mothers and passed through the placenta to their unborn babies.  The danger of these chemicals is that they build up and remain in fatty tissue for years, waiting to be shared with your growing baby. Even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, there’s no way to know how three generations of built-up toxic chemicals will affect your grandchildren.

6. Suspected to contribute to SIDS
A toxic crib mattress is definitely not what you want your brand new baby to start life on. Many of the chemicals used to manufacture crib mattresses, including chemical flame-retardants, are suspected to contribute to SIDS – a logical assumption. Taking into consideration that babies have less mass overall, breathe faster, sleep more, and can’t communicate sources of irritation except by crying, they are by default more sensitive to toxic chemicals. Although research supporting this fact is shunned in general by the mattress and medical communities, common sense and anecdotal evidence from astute parents should not be ignored.  Besides, how many mothers wouldn’t rather be safe than sorry?

7.  Not actually built to last…
It only makes sense that in order to stay in business, a company must sell more product.  Unfortunately, many mattress manufacturers prey on their best customers by employing a trick called “built in obsolescence”.  They basically build a product that is meant to wear out at a certain time interval (often using cheaper materials that will break down more quickly), which forces the customer to pay good money to purchase another mattress from them. (So how do we stay in business?  We focus our marketing on consumers that don’t yet know the benefits of organic mattresses, and we use the best salespeople on the planet: customers who love their organic mattress are always sending their friends and family our way!)

8.  …Except that they last FOR-EV-ER
And not in the “super plush and comfy for a hundred years” kind of forever (see Scary Fact #7), but they will last forever in our landfills.  Even with mattress recycling being fairly effective, there are only 11 mattress recycling facilities in the entire country.  This means that most mattresses end up in the landfills (to the tune of 10 million mattresses a year!)  The polyurethane foams and synthetic materials and fibers that are used in the construction of conventional mattresses are not biodegradable, which means that they will be polluting our Earth for generations to come.

9. Damaging to our natural resources
Commercially grown cotton is a huge offender in polluting the natural world, as are the toxic components used in polyurethane foam and the petrochemical, plastic-based fillers commonly found in, and on, conventional mattresses.  Many people are unaware that cotton is treated with substances such as formaldehyde even before flame retardants come into play, not to mention the harm that GMO crops and pesticides cause the environment.  The production and processing of conventional products is known to cause harm to the environment, and is thought to contribute to global warming.

10. The chemicals can cause irreparable harm to wildlife
The chemicals used in conventional mattress construction that can harm human health are also harmful to wildlife and pets.  Many people recall how the harmful pesticide DDT was an effective bug killer, but that it was also responsible for the deaths of thousands of birds and fish that ate the poisoned bugs, prior to being banned in the 70s.  Clearly our precious wildlife doesn’t have the option to choose organic, nor do they have the option to relocate beyond nature.

11.  Built with sweatshop labor and shipped halfway across the world
Laborers in third world countries build thousands of mattresses daily, working for wages that are a fraction of what a U.S.-based company, paying fair wages, pays their workers.  The finished mattresses are then shipped halfway across the world, subject to fumigation, and sold in American stores.  Basic economics has taught us that price is a huge reason why we choose to purchase an item in the first place, so companies will go to great lengths to make the cheapest product possible.  More often than not, products imported from overseas are sold for a fraction of what a U.S.-based company paying fair wages is able to sell its products for, which is great for the guy profiting off of these mattresses. Even when mattresses are made in the U.S., it’s important to be sure the raw materials are U.S.-grown also – otherwise you’re missing a huge opportunity to improve your own economy.

12.  Every “vote” for conventional mattresses perpetuates the problem
Beyond economics and financial support, it’s important to realize that every dollar spent makes a difference. You wouldn’t cast a ballot in favor of increasing pollution, or to support foreign labor or poor health. However, that’s what happens when you vote with your dollars and purchase mattresses made with conventional methods.  Every dollar that goes towards the conventional mattress industry encourages their practices, strengthens their lobbying power and keeps the public uninformed and in a potentially dangerous position.  Every time a consumer selects a more healthful choice, we can chip away at the old-boys club that is the mattress industry.

13. We don’t know what we don’t know…
Even all of this information is just the tip of the iceberg, a scattered few facts that reflect the limited tests and research that have been done concerning conventional mattresses.  Most of the chemicals used have been deemed safe by default, since they are already in products, but lack the research to show what the long-term or more immediate effects are.  Mattresses are today, where cigarettes were 50 years ago.  As our knowledge increases about the chemicals used in conventional mattresses, we are sure to learn even more dangerous effects they could have on consumers.

It’s a scary thought that your mattress, which should be a safe-haven in your home, could actually be bad for you.

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2 responses »

  1. Mark Schlachdet

    I read that Mr. Bader had the memory foam mattress tested and I read about the 61 VOC’s that were found. I would like to know if that test was on a new memory foam mattress or one that was at least a few months old, as the presence of VOC’s at the beginning may not mean they are present indefinitely. Could you respond?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,

      Walt is out of the office this week, so I can’t ask him directly. I haven’t heard of him storing the mattress before sending it off for testing, so I would assume that it was sent as soon as he received it from the manufacturer. We do know that VOCs can dissipate with time, but we don’t have the data to say for sure how long it takes for the VOCs to dissipate, and to what degree.

      Reply

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