Consumer Demand For Organic Mattresses Grows Each Year
Sales of organic mattress products have gone off the charts in the past few years, despite the high price of these items. An affluent and highly educated consumer population is willing to pay the price for organic goods, spurring astronomical growth in the small number of bedding manufacturers who make organic bedding. The demand exceeds the supply. One of the small companies that hand-builds organic mattresses reports that it now ships 400 orders a year, up from only 40 four years ago. The industry generally reports a 35 percent annual increase in sales.
It would be easier to buy an organic mattress if there were exact standards for what one is. When you buy organic food, you know it’s been inspected in accordance with USDA standards. The organic bedding industry is so new that no formal standards are currently in place, so you’ll have to rely on the assurances of the manufacturer that the product you’re getting is truly organic.
You probably know what you want if you’re shopping for an organic mattress. You want a bed that doesn’t have chemical substances that might have unpredictable health effects on your body. Considering that we spend one-third of our lives in bed, this is a reasonable concern. If you have children, you have even more reason to want organic. Babies typically sleep between 15 and 20 hours a day, and children don’t have as much resistance to chemical substances as adults do because their bodies are still developing.
A mainstream innerspring mattress is made primarily from synthetic materials, usually fibers like polyester and foam made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Some mattresses include natural fibers such as cotton but are still primarily synthetic. PVC and other foam materials are being studied as possible carcinogens. In addition, in the United States, Canada, and Europe, very few mattresses can be sold legally unless they’re treated with a flame retardent compound and an insecticide to repel bedbugs and other nasties.
When you shop for an organic mattress, your challenge will be to buy an organic product that complies with the law on flame retardants and insecticides. Ultimately, most people end up compromising and getting a mostly organic mattress. This type of product probably isn’t toxin-free, but it’s advertised as less toxic than conventional alternatives.
Your compromise organic mattress should use organic phosphor or nitrogen-based compounds in place of brominated flame retardants. If the mattress contains foam, it should have a low concentration of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs include items such as ketones, aldehydes, methane, and other light hydrocarbons. In addition, look for mattresses that are free of arlyamines and phthalate plasticizers. If the mattress contains synthetic fibers or foams, they should be free of biocides, such as pentachlorophenol (PCP), lindane, and tinorganic/organotin compounds.
Boric acid is the most common insecticide used in the bedding manufacturing process. It is manufactured from borate, which is a natural compound that is mined into a white powder and sprinkled in mattress fibers, including “green” mattresses made of cotton or wool. Science has so far produced conflicting data on the toxicity of boric acid. Boric acid may be your least-toxic alternative to chemical insecticide-treated mattresses.
If you must have a no-compromise organic mattress, latex rubber is the way to go. Latex is a natural substance harvested from rubber tree plantations in the tropics. It’s naturally flame resistant and pest resistant. Its comfort level is on par with synthetic memory foam, but without the long list of chemicals. Its high price tag reflects is purity and hands-on harvesting and manufacturing process.
The best way to find out what’s in the organic mattress you’re looking at is to call the company that made it. Reputation is the best sales tool in the organic mattress industry, and most manufacturers will bend over backward to answer your questions so they can get good word of mouth advertising.