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Category Archives: Flame Retardant

Should Americans Fear Their Furniture?

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James Redford and Kirby Walker, directors of “Toxic Hot Seat” at Napa Valley Film Festival in California

Airing tonight on HBO is a documentary that explores the chemical-laden flame retardants contained in much of today’s furniture.

Here is an excerpt from the article, Should Americans Fear Their Furniture? by New York Times author Jane Margolies:

The pet hairs and red wine stains on sofas across America, it turns out, should be the least of our concerns. The real issue is what is in the foam cushions we curl up on every day: up to two pounds of flame retardants.

In their HBO documentary “Toxic Hot Seat,” scheduled to be aired on Monday, the directors James Redford and Kirby Walker disclose that these chemicals, as used in home furnishings, do not stop fires. They do, however, whoosh out of seat cushions when we plop down, hitching a ride on airborne dust and ending up in our bodies. They have been linked to cancer and other health disorders.

The film explores how a 1975 California law requiring retardants (Technical Bulletin 117) became widely adopted. And it follows the firefighters, scientists, health advocates, state legislators and investigative journalists who brought attention to the chemicals, leading to a recent reform of the California mandate — which the directors, who spoke from their homes in the San Francisco area, applaud.”

For the full article click HERE.

This issue was previous explored in the OMI blog “Makers of Flame Retardants Manipulate Research Findings.”

We at OMI continue to use a safer system that allows us to use organic wool as our only flame retardant. As a result, our mattresses are able to pass federal flame tests without the use of toxic chemicals or silica barriers. To use any form of chemical flame retardant in our products would violate our ethical standards and integrity. We stand by our purity so you and your family can have a safer place to rest your heads at night.

To learn more about OMI and the certified products we offer, click HERE

DCA Considers New California Fire Retardant Regulations

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SACRAMENTO – California Department of Consumer Affairs Advisory Board Member Walt Bader, President of Organic Mattresses Inc. (OMI), reviews public comments on proposed new upholstered furniture flammability standard.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs held hearings on their proposed California Technical Bulletin 117- 2013 on March 26, 2013, and the DCA Advisory Board reviewed all public comments in late April.

Among the comments made by Board Member Bader was a suggestion that there be an exclusion written into the new legislation allowing a consumer to opt out of having to purchase any products incorporating flammability treatments by providing a medical exception.

Bureau Chief Tonya Blood advised the board that they had decided to include this language in the new regulations. Bader provided significant input regarding the 54 individual public comments that were suggested, and the legislation will go forward with the recommendations and comments of the board.

Bader stated that he felt it was a good standard and one that was created with excellent input from industry stakeholders.

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Textile Truths: A Parent’s Guide

We are an organic company, so using organic products is a no-brainer for us.  But we have to remember that not everyone has the same immersion into the world of organics, and new parents need to know when it is essential to choose organic products.

This great info-graphic,  put together by our friends at Harmony Art, is a great visual aid for new parents, and puts the “how” and “why” of buying organic for your baby into an easy-to-digest graphic that takes away the guessing game:

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To read about how this piece came together, be sure to check out Harmony Art’s blog.

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In case you are wondering:  OMI’s innerspring crib mattresses are GOTS certified, and our latex crib mattresses are GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) certified.

Go ahead and share this graphic (download the pdf here) and help spread the word.

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.

Makers of Flame Retardants Manipulate Research Findings

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Did you know that federal law requires mattresses to pass vigorous open-flame flammability tests?  These tests are usually passed with the use of chemical flame retardants.  It is a proven fact that chemical flame-retardants offgas volatile organic compounds (VOCs).   Knowing that, are these flame retardants really helping? An article written by Sam Roe and Patricia Callahan for the Chicago Tribune discusses how research was manipulated by chemical companies to increase the need for the flame retardants.  Included is an interview with the study’s lead author, Vytenis Babrauskas.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

 CHICAGO — Twenty-five years ago, scientists gathered in a cramped government laboratory and set fire to specially designed chairs, TVs and electrical cables packed with flame retardants For the next half-hour, they carefully measured how much the chemicals slowed the blaze.

It was one of the largest studies of its kind, and the chemical industry seized upon it, claiming the results showed that flame retardants gave people a 15-fold increase in time to escape fires.

Manufacturers of flame retardants would repeatedly point to this government study as key proof that these toxic chemicals – embedded in many common household items – prevented residential fires and saved lives.

But the study’s lead author, Vytenis Babrauskas, told the Chicago Tribune that industry officials have “grossly distorted” the findings of his research, which was not based on real-world conditions. The small amounts of flame retardants in typical home furnishings, he said, offer little to no fire protection.

“Industry has used this study in ways that are improper and untruthful,” he said.

The misuse of Babrauskas’ work is but one example of how the chemical industry has manipulated scientific findings to promote the widespread use of flame retardants and downplay the health risks, a Tribune investigation shows. The industry has twisted research results, ignored findings that run counter to their aims and passed off biased, industry-funded reports as rigorous science.

As a result, the chemical industry successfully distorted the basic knowledge about toxic chemicals that are used in consumer products and linked to serious health problems, including cancer, developmental problems, neurological deficits and impaired fertility.

Industry has disseminated misleading research findings so frequently that they essentially have been adopted as fact. They have been cited by consultants, think tanks, regulators and Wikipedia, and have shaped the worldwide debate about the safety of flame retardants.

One series of studies financed by the chemical industry concluded that flame retardants prevent deadly fires, reduce pollutants and save society millions of dollars.

The main basis for these broad claims? A scientific report so obscure that it is available only in Swedish.

When the Tribune obtained a copy and translated it, the report revealed that many of industry’s wide-ranging claims can be traced to information regarding just eight TV fires in western Stockholm more than 15 years ago.

Although industries often try to spin scientific findings on the safety and effectiveness of their products, the tactics employed by flame retardant manufacturers stand out.

Tom Muir, a Canadian government research analyst for 30 years, called the broad claims based on the eight Stockholm TV fires “the worst example I have ever seen of deliberate misinformation and distortion.”

The American Chemistry Council, the leading trade group for the industry, said flame retardants are safe products that help protect life and property. “ACC’s work is grounded in scientific evidence, as we believe regulatory decisions related to chemistry must be evaluated on a scientific basis,” the trade group said in a written statement.

But when the Tribune asked the trade group to provide research that showed flame retardants are effective, the council initially provided only one study – the one Babrauskas wrote and now says is being distorted by industry.

The full article is available HERE.

OMI has developed a system that allows us to use Naturally Safer® wool as our only flame retardant. As a result, our mattresses are able to pass federal flame tests without the use of toxic chemicals or silica barriers.  To use any form of chemical flame retardant in our products would violate our ethical standards and integrity.  We stand by our purity so you and your family can have a safer place to rest your head at night.

Keep watching this blog for more information on mattress flammability laws and how we pass them.

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