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Category Archives: VOC

The Dangers of the Foam Crib Mattresses

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Baby-sleep-comfort

During the in first years, infants and toddlers spend at least 50% of their time sleeping, so it is essential that the time is spent on a healthy and comfortable mattress. Here is a great article, “Keep Your Baby off that Foam Crib Mattress,” by Katherine Martinko from Green Home, that discusses the dangers of the foam used in many baby products such as crib mattresses, car seats and more.

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What do crib mattresses, cushioned car seats, and change tables all have in common? Yes, babies use them, but all of these items contain foam. This is problematic, since foam releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment. VOCs come from the variety of resins, catalysts, solvents, and adhesives that are used in the manufacturing process, and they continue to volatilize long after production.

Chronic exposures to low levels of VOCs have been linked in the past to infant allergies, asthma, and lung infections, but researchers have now done something different. They have measured the actual quantity of VOCs being emitted in a sleeping baby’s bedroom, and what they found is quite scary.

Researchers from the University of Texas, led by environmental engineer Brandon Boor, analyzed 20 new and used crib mattresses made from either polyurethane foam or polyester foam. In a bedroom-sized chamber with a heated steel cylinder to imitate the heat released by a sleeping infant’s body (which would speed up the release of VOCs), they compared measurements of VOCs within the room (10 feet away from the crib) and within the infant’s breathing zone (2.5 cm/1 in above the mattress).

According to Chemical & Engineering News, they found 30 different VOCs, including some that are classified as environmental pollutants and developmental disruptors. New mattresses released four times as many VOCs as old ones on average.

But most importantly, they found that VOCs were significantly higher in the infant’s breathing zone than in the middle of the room, which is serious when you consider that many infants sleep 12-14 hours a day in close proximity to foam.

The good news is that consumers don’t have to wait around for the industry to fix itself. There are alternative solutions that use latex, natural rubber, organic cotton, eucalyptus fibre, and/or coconut coir fillings, and are coated in organic cotton or wool, which are natural flame retardants. If you’re looking for a crib mattress, start by checking out this helpful list at Inhabitots. If you can’t afford a natural mattress, one of the study’s coauthors recommends setting aside a new mattress for six months before bringing it into the house, giving it time to off-gas sufficiently.

Check out our previous blog about OMI’s certified-organic crib mattresses, Providing a Safe Sleeping Environment.

For more OMI product information, click HERE

FTC Cracks Down on Manufacturer Greenwashing

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An important announcement yesterday from the Federal Trade Commission marked a major accomplishment in the fight against greenwashing. At OMI, it is our goal always to offer the purest products available, and it is great to see that fraudulent greenwashing claims are being prosecuted by our governmental agencies charged with protecting consumers. This will help consumers determine what is truly organic and healthy and what is just marketing hype.

The FTC has brought actions against manufactures and/or retailers for the following false assurances:

  • Claiming products do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, or phenols in their latex mattresses
  • Claiming their rubber is “chemical free”
  • Claiming that their mattresses contain no toxic substances
  • Claiming that their mattresses contain fewer contaminants and chemicals than other companies’ memory foam or latex mattresses
  • Inadequate tests that show their mattresses do not contain any VOCs or chemicals
  • Ficticous and misleading logos
  • False certifications

Here is an excerpt from the July 25th, 2013 FTC announcement:

“Under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission, three mattress manufacturers have agreed to stop making unsupported claims that the mattresses they sell are free of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
 
In addition to challenging the companies’ VOC-free claims, the FTC charged that two of the companies made unsupported claims that their mattresses were chemical-free and lacked odor.  The FTC also challenged one company’s claim that its mattresses are made from 100 percent natural materials, and another company’s claim that its mattresses were certified by an organic mattress organization.

In settling the FTC’s charges, the companies have agreed not to make similar claims in the future, unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to prove they are true.  In addition, one company is barred from making misrepresentations about certifications.”

For the full article and links for more information on the FTC announcement, click HERE.

To see a full list of OMI’s certifications, see our Purity Guarantee HERE.

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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