Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired?

How To Choose A Toxin Free Healthy Mattress

You eat organic food, get adequate sunlight and live a stress free life... You may even prioritise your sleep. All this in the name of health.

But are you undoing all this hard work every night? 

Sleep is important time for the body. Not only are we in a vulnerable state, but it's a time for repair and recovery. it is when memories are forged and muscles are built. All of this happens while you're sound asleep in your bed, our recovery haven.

Given how precious this time is for our sleep, and the fact we spend a third of our life in our bed, one would expect the bed we sleep on to be the top of our 'health priority' list. But this isn't the case. We continue to sleep on toxic surfaces laced in poisonous pesticides, toxic flame retardants and synthetic compounds.  Sure our bed may be comfortable but it's a toxic wasteland when it comes to health.

If the environment is not conducive to rest and repair our bodies natural ability to fight disease, burn fat and re-vitalise is hampered. The bed you sleep in may be the most important item in your house for health.

So how do you find the healthiest bed and mattress to optimise your sleep, your body, your health? Read on as I reveal what you need to know and look for when buying a healthy mattress. 

Note - if you're looking for my Healthy Mattress Buyers Guide, click HERE.

Why Most Beds Are Dangerous To Your Health

It's no wonder why most beds are unhealthy. Look at the materials that go into a mattress. Foam made from petrochemicals, cotton sprayed in cancer causing glyphosate, flame retardants linked to infertility and obesity. then there is the fabrics treated with poisonous chemicals and dyes...

We avoid plastic bottles because of hormone disrupting BPA.

We try to eat organic to reduce our pesticide exposure.

Yet we happily smother ourselves on a mattress filled full of these toxic compounds. 8 hours a night. Every night of the week!

The biggest health offenders found in our mattress and bed include:

Flame Retardants:

I have written an entire article on the dangers of flame retardants here  - Are You Being Exposed To Dangerous Flame Retardants?

In this article I show how flame retardants such as PBDEs are found in alarming high levels in mattresses.

Worst, these flame retardants bind to dust particles and make their way into the air when the mattress foam or material is compressed. We lie on our bed and 'poof', we're exposed to an enormous about of flame retardant particles. Breathing in these particles is the main pathway for flame retardants to enter the human body (1).

Then we spend 8 hours a night with our mouth, nose and eyes resting on the source of these flame retardants.

Why is this of concern?

Flame retardant exposure is linked to fertility issues, obesity, thyroid health problems, impaired brain function and cancer.

Spring Coils - nnEMF exposure

Metal coils are often used in mattress manufacturing process. Some manufacturers even promote the amount of springs within their product as a selling point.

But metal within a mattress can be a problem, especially if your bedroom is surrounded by a lot of technology or are sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMF).

The metal within the mattress springs (and the metal bed frame itself) can act as antennas for non-native electromagnetic fields (examples of devices that emit harmful nnEMF include smart meters, cell phones, cell phone towers, wall wiring, wifi routers, appliances, baby monitors etc).

We are already living a nnEMF saturated world, with wireless device use increasing exponentially. There are many unknowns and concerns around the human body being exposed to so many electric and magnetic fields so this is an area of health we need to be cautious of. 

Our bedroom and bed should be a safe haven from a noisy, stressful world. Yet many of use retire at night laying on top of mini 'antennas', exposing us to further low levels of EMF.

Metal can also become magnetized and in turn interfere with the bodies natural orientation to the magnetic poles.

The irony of this is that exposure to nnEMF fields at night is linked to insomnia and poor sleep quality. So if you have followed all my sleep tips and still wonder why you aren't sleeping well, it could be your bed!

A an article published in Scientific American looked at the link between nnEMF pollution from FM and TV radiation and cancers in the body. The author stated how:

Antennas are simply metal objects of appropriate length sized to match the wavelength of a specific frequency of electromagnetic radiation. Just as saxophones are made in different sizes to resonate with and amplify particular wavelengths of sound, electromagnetic waves are selectively amplified by metal objects that are the same, half or one quarter of the wavelength of an electromagnetic wave of a specific frequency. Electromagnetic waves resonate on a half-wavelength antenna to create a standing wave with a peak at the middle of the antenna and a node at each end, just as when a string stretched between two points is plucked at the center. In the U.S. bed frames and box springs are made of metal, and the length of a bed is exactly half the wavelength of FM and TV transmissions that have been broadcasting since the late 1940s. In Japan most beds are not made of metal, and the TV broadcast system does not use the 87- to 108-megahertz frequency used in Western countries.
Thus, as we sleep on our coil-spring mattresses, we are in effect sleeping on an antenna that amplifies the intensity of the broadcast FM/TV radiation. Asleep on these antennas, our bodies are exposed to the amplified electromagnetic radiation for a third of our life spans. As we slumber on a metal coil-spring mattress, a wave of electromagnetic radiation envelops our bodies so that the maximum strength of the field develops 75 centimeters above the mattress in the middle of our bodies. When sleeping on the right side, the body's left side will thereby be exposed to field strength about twice as strong as what the right side absorbs.

Thankfully there is an abundance of mattresses made without metal foils and wooden bed frames, on the market today. You can see some of my top recommendations HERE. 

For more on the dangers of nnEMF exposure I recommend reading the work of Robert o Becker.

Dust Mites

Mattresses make the perfect storage site for dust and dead skin cells. The typical mattress increases in weight as the years go by, the source for this increase in weight? Dead dust mites and their excrement.

A paper published by Ohio State university found that a typical used mattress has 100,000 to 10 millions mites inside it (2).

An adult female mite lays up to 40 to 80 eggs. The life cycle from egg to adult is about one month with the adult living an extra one to three months. 

Mites main food source is human skin. But they also need water and or humid conditions. Thus making a mattress with a human covered in skin and expelling a pint of water a night an excellent habit!

This build up of dust, and dust mites can cause all sorts of allergic reactions in humans. We wash and air out out clothes and sheets on a regular basis, but beds and mattresses sit in a corner of a room for decades collecting dust and feeding dust mites.

Off Gassing Chemicals

Most mattresses and bed frames on the market today contain a high amount of synthetic materials. From polyurethane foam (or polyfoam), to toxic glues, these man made chemicals contain high amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs leech enter the air, making concentrations of VOCs up to 10 times higher inside compared to outside environments (3).

Examples of these VOC's include toluene and isocyanates which have been linked to asthma, liver issues and cancer (4). New mattresses and bed frames are the worst offenders for off gassing.  

A lot of manufacturers will recommend airing new mattresses out for a few hours (or days) ideally in a room you don't spend much time in. But most people ignore this recommendation and will sleep on their new chemical laden mattress the day they get it.

Thankfully the older the mattress, the less problem off gassing chemicals are, but older mattresses generally have more problems with dust and flame retardants. 

Synthetic Material

When it comes to bed and mattress shopping, most people focus on two things, comfort and price. 

Unfortunately, both of these factors are easy to achieve with the use of synthetic materials. Not only are these materials much cheaper to produce, but given the technology we have with foams, mattresses can be made to suit all types of bodies and desires. 

From memory foam to pillow top, there is a mattress for every individual, and at a competitive price!

But there is a downside, and that is the negative impact these materials have on our health. I have covered the main concerns around flame retardant use, and off gassing chemicals above. But other problems include:

  • Poor breathability. Adequate air flow and temperature control is important when it comes to a healthy mattress and optimal sleep. I go into more detail on this topic in my Deep Sleep article.
  • Exposure to pesticides. Even mattresses using 'natural' materials such as cotton are heavily sprayed with pesticides, contaminating them with an assortment of chemicals. Genetically modified cotton consumes 25% of the worlds pesticide use. 
  • Skin reactions. Non-natural synthetic materials can cause skin reactions in some sensitive people. Even if this is not a severe problem, it is still a stressful attack on the body during a time when we should be recovering and repairing from the days events.

But don't despair. Thankfully today there are many 'healthy' mattress and bed manufacturers around the world. 

Below I run through the questions you should ask when shopping for a healthy new bed or mattress. 

Questions To Ask When Buying A Healthy Bed and Mattress 

Just because a mattress is labeled 'green', or 'natural', or even 'organic' doesn't mean its perfectly healthy for you. 

Green-washing is widely used in the mattress industry. This is where manufacturers include one 'green' material in their product so they can say their product is 'natural'. 

An example is with foam made with soy. These foams are largely made with petrochemicals but contain a small about of soy. But this is enough to justify a 'natural foam' label on the product.

Likewise with the term 'natural'. Even if the mattress was made from 100% natural materials, this does not mean it's a healthy product.

Conventional soy and cotton are both GMO crops - meaning they are exposed to enormous amounts of glyphosate, this poison makes it's way into the fabric of the mattress. For more on this read Glyphosate: The Weed Killer Found In Our Food, Water and Beds.

Finally, it is important to note that 'Green' 'Eco-friendly' and 'Sustainable' labels do not translate into a healthy product.

A bed frame sourced from wood from a sustainable forest may get the greenies tick of approval, but it could be heavily treated with formaldehyde and other VOC materials. 

Now on to the questions you should ask when looking for a healthy mattress:

Is it marked 'natural'? If so, what do they mean by this?

I touched on this above. Just because a mattress or bed frame contains 'natural' products, doesn't mean it's entirely made of natural materials, nor does it mean these natural materials are safe.

This is like labelling a doughnut that contains wheat as 'natural', despite the wheat being genetically engineered and laden in glyphosate. Then finding out the rest of the ingredients are actually synthetic artificial sweeteners and trans fats.

Sure it's better to have a mattress that is free from petrochemical based materials, but you need to investigate how these materials have been processed or treated, and if the entire mattress is made from natural materials or just a small percentage. 

Dig deeper.

Does it contain flame retardants?

I was horrified when I researched flame retardants and their impact on our health. You can read my findings here - but these chemicals are everywhere in our homes, especially in our furniture and beds.

Finding a mattress free of flame retardants should be the top of your list when it comes to purchasing a healthy mattress.  Though this can be challenging as most foams contain flame retardants.

There are many names used for flame retardants, so be sure to dig deep into the makeup of the foams used. I have a list of all the common flame retardant names that you can access here.

Note - Some states and countries have strict regulations around flame retardant use in furniture and bedding. You may find mattresses must have a certain amount of flame retardants in them.

If this is the case where you live, you have two options.

  1. Go to your GP and get a prescription for a mattress not containing flame retardants.
  2. Find a mattress that uses natural, non-toxic forms of flame retardants. These include Hydrated Silica, wool and boric acid. But even these may have some health issues. Read my article on flame retardants for more.

What type of core structure does it use?

There are many ways to make the internal core structure of a mattress. Some safe, some extremely toxic. 

I have provided a basic rundown on these structures below. 

  • Natural Latex.

This is made from the sap from rubber trees. Though often it has other materials added to it, so check with the manufacturer that is 100% natural latex foam (or at least find out what the other materials are).

It has great anti-bacterial properties and is a natural product. But some people can react to latex, so test this before buying an expensive mattress made of natural latex!

  • Synthetic Latex

This is made from petroleum compounds. It will contain VOCs and the compounds used to make synthetic latex have been linked to many health issues include nervous system problems and cancer (5, 6).

  • Polyurethane Foam (or PolyFoam)

A commonly used synthetic foam as it's cheap to make. However it will contain a lot of VOC's and flame retardants (as it is very flammable). Avoid.

  • Polyethylene Foam

A much safer petroleum based foam, but it can still contain contaminants.

  • InnerSpring Metal Coils

No toxicity issues. But if you are concerned about nnEMF I would avoid this.

  • Memory Foam

Extremely toxic. Similar to polyurethane foam. Off-gassing is a big problem.

  • Plant Based Foam

This is usually a blend of polyurethane and a plant oil such as soy bean oil. Obviously there is less petrochemical products in this foam, but you need to check the amount of plant material used as often it is only a few percent.

Also, soy is a GMO crop so there will be pesticide contamination in the product.

Investigate to see the if it is 100% plant based foam and whether it was made using organic crops. Avoid if not.

  • Wool

This has natural flame retardant properties. Some people react to wool on their skin. Also, ensure the wool hasn't been treated or processed with harmful chemicals. Organic wool naturally treated is best.

  • Coir

This is made from coconut husks. It's not a commonly used material in the mattress world, but it is a natural product with minimal downsides.

 

Remember, Ask for specifics. And ask for any certificates they may have for the materials used in making the mattress. If companies use healthy and safe materials, chances are they will promote this fact. If you have to go digging it's a bad sign. Though be wary of green-washing!

Does it use Memory Foam?

If so, avoid.

As I mentioned above, memory foam is made from polyurethane and is extremely toxic.

The team at The Mattress Underground have this to say about memory foam:

All memory foam is synthetic and made in a similar way to polyurethane foam with some "rather nasty" chemicals added to it. Most have a tendency to not smell very good when they are initially made and the worst of them can be rather bad and last for a long time. Some memory foams can also give off toxic fumes which can be quite harmful and if the foam itself breaks down into dust and these are breathed in, this can also be a source of concern over time (in other words don't wait to the last possible moment to replace them). If you are one of those who loves the feel of memory foam, you will need to give up on your hopes of having a "green" or "natural" mattress (in spite of many false claims to the contrary in the industry which are completely misleading). If you do purchase a mattress with memory foam, make sure it has been certified for any offgassing or toxicity by a reputable testing organization such as Oeko-Tex or CertiPur. For safety reasons as well as durability considerations, I would also tend to avoid memory foams made by unknown manufacturers.

Are the natural fibres in the mattress truely natural?

Natural fibres may include hemp fibres, coconut fibres, wool or another plant or animal based fibre. Generally they are quality materials with great breathing properties.

But you need to be wary if you see 'natural fibres' on the label. Be sure to do some further digging. 

Many forms of natural fibres are processed in extremely 'unnatural' ways. 

What glues or adhesives do they use?

Mattress layers are often held together with toxic glues. A mattress maker may use quality and safe materials, but then glue them together with cheap glues that off-gas.

Quality mattress manufacturers may avoid glues all together and instead tightly bind all the layers of the mattress with an organic cotton cover.

 If there are glues in the mattress or bed frame, then ensure they are water based glues.

Does it contain polyurethane

Polyurethane is a synthetic compound with an assortment of toxicity issues.

The Mattress Underground has this to say about polyurethane in mattresses:

Polyurethane is completely chemical in nature. Even though some of [the foams] are partially made from polyols (one of the foam ingredients) which are derived from plants. Some of these are more highly processed than others still have an environmental impact in their manufacturing in different ways (some like soy which is a GMO crop and is responsible for some of the destruction of the rainforest) more so than others (like castor oil which requires less processing). There is no such thing as a natural polyurethane foam. While they do not usually have the same issues with toxicity and outgassing as memory foam, this is still a potential in their manufacturing and I would also make sure that if your mattress has polyfoam in it that the source is North American or has been tested by a reputable testing organization such as CertiPur as well. 

Does the mattress contain cotton? If so, ensure it's organic.

Cotton is a GMO crop, meaning it can be sprayed with glyphosate and not die (farmers to do this to control weeds, while the crop continues to grow).

Glyphosate is an extremely poisonous chemical, and has been linked to a number of health issues. I cover this in great detail in my article Glyphosate: Why You Need To Eat Organic. Most associate glyphosate with food, but the chemical can make it's way into the body through skin contact and inhalation.

If you intend of sleeping on your mattress for a third of your day, I would recommend using organic cotton.

Also, you may want to investigate how the cotton has been processed.

Is it truely organic?

If the 'organic' label is used on the mattress, dig deeper to see what this actually means.

Organic labelling in the bedding industry is not the same as the food industry (which is tightly regulated). Mattress manufactures may simply label their mattress as organic because it contains natural plant material, or a small percent of organic cotton.

Or perhaps the mattress cover is made with organic material, but the latex in the mattress itself is not organic. 

The Mattress Underground has this to say on the topic:

The word "organic" is so commonly misused in the entire industry that some retailers or manufacturers believe they need to use "organic" for competitive reasons instead of it's more technically correct meaning ... and with the current state of the market and consumer misunderstanding of what organic really means when it comes to mattresses ... to some degree they may have legitimate concerns.
There are three levels of organic certifications (see here for more specifics about certifications).
First are the raw materials and if this is an agricultural crop then it can be USDA certified as a raw material.
Second is the actual component or layer itself which is made from organic raw materials. In this case it would be GOTS certified if it was a fabric or GOLS certified if it was latex. These can be called "organic" but not USDA certified organic. There is more about organic latex and other types and blends of latex in here .
Finally there is the certification for the complete production chain from raw materials to the final mattress itself to make sure that every step meets the organic guidelines. This would technically be the only mattress that can legitimately be called an organic mattress vs a mattress that includes all organic materials but this isn't the normal "practice" in the industry.
Other than this you would have a mattress that "contained" organic components or materials but the mattress itself wouldn't be organic ... as a final product.
While of course many people look for organic certifications to make sure there are no chemicals used in the production or manufacturing of any wool or cotton in a mattress for "safety" reasons more than because of the actual farming methods that are used for the agricultural crop (cotton especially uses more pesticides in it's production than any other agricultural crop so it may be important to make sure it's organic or at least pesticide and chemical free), I would also be aware that there are some very high quality and "non chemical" wools available that aren't certified organic but use organic farming and production methods even though they don't certify their wool because of the additional costs it would add to their wool. If the wool was from this type of source (such as eco wool ), then an organic certification may not be as important but of course this is always a personal preference issue and for some people an organic certification may be important for personal or lifestyle or environmental reasons or other other reasons besides the actual quality or performance of the materials themselves in spite of the additional costs that may be involved (see post #3 here )

Again, be wary of green washing.

Are there metal springs in the mattress?

As I covered above, metal springs in the mattress, or even a metal bed frame can cause issues for those sensitive to nnEMF. 

Even if you are not sensitive to nnEMF there is a growing amount of research showing that chronic exposure to nnEMF can cause various health problems.

Some experts even suggest that the metal wire in a bra has an 'antenna' affect and is a health hazard (7).

Given the increasing amount of nnEMF pollution in this world, I personally would avoid buying a mattress with metal springs within it.

If you insist on buying a inner-coil spring mattress, then I would recommend using a wooden bed frame to sit this mattress on, instead of a metal frame bed. The length of a bed frame is a similar length to common nnEMF waves.

If you are serious about buying a healthy bed and mattress, avoid metal. But it is important to remember that simply avoiding metal in your mattress does not protect you from nnEMF. If you have poor wiring in your bedroom wall, or a wifi router on, or your phone is not in airplane mode, you are exposed to a lot of nnEMF. 

Does it have good temperature regulation properties?

My Oura sleep score suffers when it's hot. Yet my sleep quality drastically improves in winter. 

Low temperatures at night time are important for quality sleep. In fact there is evidence to show that the body temperature should be lowest during the night and this correlates with improved sleep quality.

If you are sleeping on a mattress that doesn't 'breathe' or holds a lot of body heat, you are negatively impacting your sleep. It's much easier to warm up when it's cold with extra blankets than it is to lower your body temperature when it's hot.

When it comes to mattresses, and mattress materials, there are some that are good at heat regulation and others fail miserably.

For more on this topic, I go back to the knowledgeable folk at TheMattressUnderground

 The words "temperature regulation" and "sleeping cool" and many others are more loose marketing terms in today's environment where every manufacturer tends to talk about how their mattress are cool sleeping without providing the why behind the what.
There are three main "technologies" being used to encourage "cool sleeping"
The first are the gel materials which work through thermal conductivity. These conduct heat away from the body to differing degrees (like putting your hand on a marble countertop) until the temperature has evened out at which time like most memory foam they will start to insulate you and can increase temperature because they are less breathable and can allow for higher humidity levels than other materials.

Thermal conductive gels (like a marble countertop) has a cool feel to it but the cooling benefits end once temperatures have equalized and from that point onwards the foam is insulating. In other words they are one piece of the puzzle.
The second is "phase change" materials which are a form of gel which changes it's state from a semi solid to a semi liquid and will either draw heat or release it depending on the temperature difference between it and the surroundings. These too don't regulate humidity levels and the sleeping microclimate.
Finally there is ventilation or "breathability" which can wick away the moisture and store it inside the fiber and away from your skin or "wick" it to another layer to keep your sleeping environment at a lower humidity level which allows the natural cooling processes of the body to work more effectively. Evaporation is the natural cooling mechanism and it works less effectvely in higher humidity levels. Humidity levels close to the skin will affect how we perceive temperature just like high humidity levels outdoors will make us feel hotter than it really is. Temperature regulation without good ventilation is "temporary" and can still allow the buildup of humidity close to the body which increases the effective sleeping temperature.
While all of these can play a 'temporary" or "partial" role ... ventilation and sleeping microclimate is by far the most important. In other words ... just feeling the "coolness" of a material has little to do with how cool you will sleep over the course of the night unless there is good ventilation and regulation of humidity levels. 
This is why you hear about so many people buying various gel foam materials and still ending up sleeping warm because the essential ventilation issue may not be well addressed even though they may have some effect.
There are many elements to the sleeping cool "equation" which includes the upper layers of the mattress, the ticking and quilting materials, the mattress protector, and any sheets and bedding on the mattress and all of these work together to regulate temperature and allow (or not) the natural processes of the body to keep itself cool. In other words ... don't be "faked out" by the temperature of a material when you put your hand on it or lie on it for a few minutes.
Hope this helps solve the "sleeping temperature" puzzle and sort out some of the marketing exaggerations from the facts behind them.

So what are suitable materials when it comes to humidity control, thermoregulation and moisture wicking?

Wool is one great choice as it can help regulate temperature, humidity and store moisture in the wool fiber without having that 'wet' feel.  It allows to sleep drier and cooler in warmer (and more humid) temperatures.  Wool is also naturally dust mite resistant. 

Cotton also has great moisture wicking properties, but it has a wet feel when it absorbs water.

Foams generally have more insulating properties, but some can be more breathable than others. Latex is the coolest, followed by polyfoam, followed by memory foam. 

Softer foams are more breathable, but it's important to remember that you sink into softer foams and increase the surface contact on the skin. 

Natural fibers are generally the best for wicking and storing moisture as they store the moisture in the fiber itself.

Fibre blends or plant fibers that have been processed have these similar properties but may not be as good as a pure natural product.

Mattress manufacturers understand the unique properties of certain materials, and will often layer the materials accordingly (for instance the cotton may be against the body, but underneath moisture is stored in the wool). 

TheMattressUnderground put it nicely:

Each layer in a mattress can either add to or detract from the other layers that are involved in the microclimate and their ability to ventilate (add to the dispersal of heat and water vapor) as well as wick moisture and store moisture away from the body is all part of the puzzle.
The foams in the comfort layers are a part of this. All foams are insulating materials but some are more breathable (which can allow for the dispersal of heat) than others. In addition to this ... if you add gel or other thermally conductive materials or phase change materials into the foam this can have an effect as well (on temperature until it evens out but not on ventilation which is more important in the longer term). 
Next above the foam is often the quilting layer which can be either more foam or natural or synthetic fibers. Next above this is the fabric used in the mattress ticking itself. 
Next is the mattress protector, next is the sheets, and then comes the person (and what they are wearing) along with the layers on the other side of them which is their blankets and bedding. 
All of these play a role. If any of these layers "stop" the ventilation then you have dead air (insulating) and temperatures can go up. If moisture isn't wicked away from the body ... then you lose some ability to disperse heat.

Temperature control does not just stop at the mattress. It will depend on the mattress protector you use, the sheets on your bed, the clothes you sleep in and of course the airflow and temperature in the room.

Note: I will be taking a deep dive into healthy sheets, pillows, blankets and mattress protectors in the future, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter to be the first to hear about my findings.

When it comes to buying a mattress to support airflow, the key is more natural fibres, and to ensure the foams are breathable and not insulating in nature - especially the foams close to the surface of the mattress.

Is the wool treated or untreated? 

Wool is often mothproofed with harmful chemicals. Also, some companies add chemicals to the wool to increase fire resistance.

Be sure to ask the manufacturer if the wool has any additives.

Where is the bed/mattress made?

You may find the perfect mattress, with all the right materials and proper certificates in place, but it's important to look at where the mattress is made.

Ideally it would be manufactured in a facility that only produces organic beds. Cross contamination in manufacturing is a real concern. You don't want your organic natural materials to be processed in a machine that has just processed synthetic materials full of chemicals.

If they outsource some of their production (ie, some of the sewing), then ask about the production facilities of these external suppliers.

Likewise with transport - make sure the mattresses are well sealed for transport and aren't exposed to toxic fumes or chemicals.

Does it have an environmental green label? If so, what does it actually mean?

If the bed or mattress is certified with an eco-friendly, or green label, make sure you find out what it actually certifies.

You need to ensure that the certificate tests for:

  • VOCs
  • SVOCs (semi-volatile organic compounds) such as pesticides and flame retardants
  • Plasticizers

Certificates are broken down into 3 types:

  1. First party certifications - these are created by the manufacturing company themselves. The certificates will only check for the things that the manufacture does well, while ignoring any possible issues.
  2. Second party certificates. These are setup by the industry or trade associations. Slightly better than the first party certificates, but it is still not an independant, unbiased certificate (a lot of the manufactures fund these associations).
  3. Third party certificates. These are totally independent organisations - often ran as a not for profit or as a government organisations. Certificates from third party organisations are the mist trust worthy but you should still do your own research. 

Some third party certificates that exist in the bedding space include:

  • Oeko-Tex. This certificate limits toxic chemicals such as flame retardant use and formaldehyde within mattress components (not the entire mattress).
  • Global Organic Textile Standard: This standard looks at the processes used in the manufacture of textiles. It also applied to the end textile product. 
  • Global Organic Latex Standard: This applied to latex, meaning the latex is certified organic.
  • Greenguard :This is an indoor air quality certificate, and thus items with this certificate must have limits on chemicals (VOCs etc) within them.

Please note that Certi-Pur certificate is a trade association standard that is operated by the 'Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam'. This standard restricts the use PDBE flame retardants (which use is banned anyway), heavy metals and formaldehyde (which aren't used in mattress foam production) and has some limits on VOCs. While better than nothing, this is an industry funded certificate and you should look beyond this simple stamp of approval.

Also, some manufacturers may have an 'environmental' stamp of approval, this may mean it's good for the world, but it doesn't necessarily imply it's a product that is good for you. Green does not always mean healthy.

For more information on these certificates please head to this page. 

Does the mattress company reveal what their mattress is made from? 

If you can't find answers to all these questions on the manufactures website, you may need to contact them. If they don't answer your question this is a good sign that they're using unsafe materials in their products.

Put yourself in the manufacturers shoes -  if you were using safe materials and had good manufacturing processes you wouldn't keep these facts to yourself. You would want to share them with the world.

Don't be afraid to ask these hard questions. Buying a bed or a new mattress is a big investment, and if you value your health you should ask these questions. 

If the manufacturer won't comply, find someone else who will. I have put together a guide that may help you find a suitable mattress manufacturer HERE.

What is the mattress cover (known as a ticking) made of?

The mattress cover acts as a support structure holding all the internal layers together (this is why some mattresses are free of glues) and provides another layer of comfort.

Some mattesses may have quality internal materials, but the exposed cover is syntehtic, or uses an inferior material.

If it is a cotton cover, make sure it's made from organic cotton. Especially as this cotton will come into contact with the skin. And check to ensure it hasn't been treated in anyway.

A wool cover is a good option, though check if it has been treated and ensure wool doesn't cause irritation on your skin.

Polyester covers should be avoided. These are made out of petroleum and contain a lot of synthetic chemicals.

Does the mattress contain any anti-bacterial chemicals?

You may think a mattress with anti-bacterial properties as being a positive thing, but unfortunatley most anti-bacterials used in mattresses are registered pesticides (Staph-guard and Ultra-Fresh are two examples).

Also, anti-bacterial chemicals may kill some bacteria, but not all bacteria, leading to the growth of resistance bacteria in your sleeping surface. 

The Perfect Healthy Bed and Mattress?

I know that is a lot of questions to be asking when searching for a new healthy mattress!

If you are looking for a quick reference guide on some healthy brands of mattresses, be sure to download the chart I have put together HERE.

Otherwise, what is an ideal healthy bed and mattress?

Let's look at some criteria first:

The bed and mattress should be:

  1. Easy to clean
  2. Breathe well, with the ability to absorb and dispel moisture
  3. Not be supportive of mould growth
  4. Be nontoxic and free from harmful chemicals
  5. Free of metal
  6. Support quality sleep

Knowing all this, what would I look for in a healthy mattress and bed? The materials I would want my mattress to consist of include:

Natural Latex 

Natural latex is a healthy, natural alternative to synthetic memory foam. It doesn't need extra metal springs or coils and it is free of chemicals and toxins.

A quality natural latex won't sag and should last 20 years or longer. Ensure you go with 100% natural latex.

For more on the pros and cons of latex see this article. 

Untreated Wool

Wool is naturally fire resistant, meaning there is no need for the toxic flame retardants. It has amazing temperature and moisture regulation properties while been resistant to dust mites.

Just ensure you go with a untreated, or chemical free wool. 

Organic Cotton

Cotton is one of the most commonly found materials in the bedding industry, yet cotton crops are exposed to massive amounts of pesticides and other chemicals.

Pure cotton is a quality material with great properties, but if health is a priority, only go with mattresses that use organic cotton. 

Natural Fibres

Hemp, coconut, bamboo and other plant based fibres are relatively new and unheard of in the conventional mattress scene. But some organic, health conscious  mattress makers are turning to these fibres.

Being a natural material they generally have no or very little toxicity issues. They also breath well and are quite durable. However, be sure to look into any treatment or processing that may have been done before these fibers end up in the mattress.

Bed Frames 

Thats for the mattress, what about the bed frame itself?

For this, the solution is simple. You want to find something that is free of metal, allows good air flow and is made with non-toxic materials.

The solution?

A wooden slat bed frame made made with untreated wood and free of any high VOC glues or paints.

Not only does this remove the nnEMF issue, there won't be any off gassing issues with the frame and the slat bed frame raised off the floor allows adequate air flow around and under the mattress.

Sheets, Pillows, Mattress Covers

I will cover this topic in a future article. Be sure to sign up to my newsletter to be the first to hear about my findings.

What I use and What brands do I recommend? 

At the time of writing, I haven't decided 100% on what bed and mattress I will purchase for our new home.

I will admit however, I am drawn to the idea of buying a futon bed. Here in New Zealand there are many health conscious organic futon bed and mattress makers. The price of these setups is much lower than a conventional mattress with the same quality materials.

The big appeal for me is the fact that you can move and air out the mattress. Something that is rather difficult to do with a conventional mattress.

But watch this space. I will share my own buying journey in my weekly newsletter, so keep an eye out for my weekend emails.

In the mean time, be sure to download my handy healthy mattress buying chart HERE. In this chart I have listed some of the worlds healthiest mattresses, a long with the key pros and con's of these mattresses.

If you don't want to spend the many hours required to find your perfect healthy mattress, then THIS chart will save you a lot of time! 

You can access this guide by clicking HERE.

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