Did you know that your mattress might be treated with chemicals that increase your risk of a long list of diseases? Many conventional mattresses are treated with fire-retardant chemicals. On top of that, they are often created using materials that have been grown using synthetic pesticides.
One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to get enough, high-quality sleep every night. What if your mattress is coated in toxins that are dangerous to you, though? Do fire-retardant chemicals on your mattress really pose a health risk?
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the answer is yes. Not only that, but our children are the most vulnerable when it comes to the negative health effects of contact with these chemicals.
Is it possible to purchase mattresses without flame retardant chemicals? What certifications should you look for when buying a mattress so you can have confidence in the product? We will answer these questions and more below.
What Are Fire Retardants?
Fire retardants are chemicals that are applied to materials in order to slow the growth of fire or prevent it entirely. Many consumer and industrial products have had flame retardants on them since the 1970s. Flame retardants are particularly applied to the following products:
- Furnishings such as mattresses, foam, carpets, upholstery, fabric blinds, and curtains
- Electrical devices and electronics, such as laptops, computers, televisions, phones, and household appliances
- Construction and building materials, including insulation materials and electrical wires and cables
- Transportation products such as seat covers, seats, overhead compartments, bumpers, and other parts of cars, trains, and planes
There are a number of fire retardants that are no longer being produced and have been removed from the market. However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t still in the environment. It can take a long time for these chemicals to break down and they can also bioaccumulate.
Why Are There Flame Retardants in Mattresses?
New federal guidelines were issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2007. These guidelines require that all mattresses are able to withstand thirty minutes of exposure to an open flame. The CPSC claims that this regulation is necessary because it will help to prevent injuries, reduce property damage, and save lives.
However, it is not required that mattress manufacturers use fire retardant chemicals in order to meet these new standards. According to the CPSC, there are mattresses that comply with the requirements without using such chemicals.
Mattress Fire Retardant Toxicity
There are a number of negative health effects that can be experienced due to flame retardants. Humans spend about one third of their lives sleeping, and infants can spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping. This puts all of us in contact with the chemicals on our mattresses a significant amount of time.
The chemical flame retardants that are used in conventional mattresses have been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including:
- Developmental brain disorders
In 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a new warning to consumers. They urged consumers to avoid products that contained organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs). These can be found on furniture, children’s toys, electronic device casings, and yes, mattresses.
This particular class of chemicals has been linked to a long list of serious health conditions. These include:
- Learning deficits and hyperactivity in children
- Decreased IQ
- Reproductive problems
- Immune and hormone disorders
- Memory function issues
The Commission didn’t go so far as to completely ban the use of these chemicals in certain products. However, it appears that the tides are changing and people are starting to understand that the risks outweigh the benefits here.
Can You Buy Mattresses Without Flame Retardant?
Luckily, you can buy mattresses without flame retardant chemicals. You will want to look for certified non toxic mattresses. This will help you avoid potential exposure to harmful chemicals.
The two labels you’ll want to look for are the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
GOLS certifies that the mattresses are 95% organic latex while GOTS certifies organic textiles to 95%. GOTS also bans the use of polyurethane and chemical flame retardants.
There are additional certifications you can look for. These include the CertiPUR-US, the Organic Content Standard 100, and Greenguard.
CertiPUR-US is a certification that bans the use of flame retardants and certain chemicals in polyurethane mattresses. The Organic Content Standard 100 looks at the percentage of material that’s organic in the mattress.
Lastly, Greenguard is a certification that looks at the emissions from the mattress.
(Are you wondering what the benefits of buying an organic mattress are? Check out this article to learn more.)