We all know that sleep is crucial for a healthy body and mind. While we sleep, our bodies repair and restore themselves. We go to bed tired and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the new day. We open our eyes with a smile on our face and a song in our heart! Wait… what? I usually wake up feeling just as tired as I was when my head hit the pillow. It takes me several minutes to pry my eyes open and convince myself it’s time to get up. I kind of roll out of bed and stumble to the bathroom moaning with each step. Sound familiar?
I’m not saying our mattresses are the total cause of our less-than-thrilling start to each new day, but I am sure they are a contributing factor. The chemicals that are approved for use in mattresses are absolutely shocking to me! These chemicals are found in other things in our homes as well, but since my mouth and nose are pressed into the mattress for 7-8 hours every night (with my leg flung over the edge of the bed and my arm flung over my husband’s face), I thought it best to start there.
I could not find an exact list of what manufacturers are using in mattresses and the chemicals involved because they did not want to reveal their “trade secrets” (that in itself is a bit scary!). However, here are a few of the chemicals they do own up to.
A petroleum-based material that emits volatile organic compounds that can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation.
Used in most mattresses and has been linked to asthma, allergies, lung, nose and throat CANCERS.
Every mattress HAS to have flame retardants due to US laws. Most manufacturers use chemical flame retardants. The most toxic of these, PBDEs, have been voluntarily discontinued by US and EU manufacturers (after allowing it for YEARS!). Chlorinated Tris is sometimes used, which has been linked with CANCER and fertility side effects. Another common chemical flame retardant is Antimony, which has been linked to pneumoconiosis, altered electrocardiograms, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ulcers.
Cotton is one of the most chemical-intensive crops in the world. This cotton is then used in mattresses. Pesticides can cause CANCER and nervous-system disorders.
Nearly all adhesives contain potentially hazardous chemicals that can contribute to chemical off-gassing, and some of which have been linked to CANCER and HORMONE DISRUPTION. A solvent based adhesive can have nearly 50 different toxic chemicals!
Why are these chemicals allowed you might ask.
The sad fact is, chemicals are allowed UNTIL they are found unsafe. Think about lead paint for a moment. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood. Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and in extreme cases, DEATH. Lead paint for household use was finally banned in the U.S. and the U.K. in 1978. Lead paint is just one example. A couple other toxins that are now banned for certain uses are Asbestos which leads to malignant and life-threatening health issues and PCBs which has now been found to be a probable human cancer-causing or cancer-promoting agent, and has been linked to neurotoxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, immune system suppression, liver damage, skin irritation, and endocrine disruption. Think about all those years we were exposed to these toxins, the illnesses and even deaths they caused before the agencies set up to protect us finally said Whoa, this is REALLY bad for humans!!!
I don’t know about you, but I just do not trust that the agencies set up to protect us from toxic chemicals are able to do that. In order to truly test whether a substance will have negative health effects over an extended period of time, it would take YEARS of testing. Obviously they are not tested for years before they are okayed for the consumer since new chemicals are created and introduced into consumer products at a staggering pace! Not to mention, chemicals are tested one at a time when in reality, most of the chemicals we come into contact with are mixed with many other chemicals.
How many of the chemicals found in the mattress you’re sleeping on will be banned somewhere down the road? How many years will you be breathing them in the mean time?
So how do we avoid these chemically laden mattresses?
The answer is easy: use an organic mattress. A truly organic mattress does not contain any of the chemicals I listed above. Instead, they are made with natural latex from the rubber tree, organic cotton that has not been sprayed with pesticides or cleaned with toxic chemicals and untreated wool that acts as a NATURAL fire-retardant. They are more expensive than chemical cocktail mattresses, but in my opinion, my health and the health of my family is worth it. Will I have pep in my step in the morning when I wake up? I’m not sure, but I know I will certainly sleep a little more soundly on an organic mattress. Now, on to research the chemicals in my cleaning products…