What Lies Beneath: The Flat-Out Truth About Mattresses



People spend a lot of time on mattresses; John and Yoko famously didn't get out of bed for days on end. Julie Scelfo at the New York Times looks at what goes into a mattress, and in particular, what "organic," "natural" or "eco-friendly" mean, and came to the conclusion- not much.


The Times provides a terrific table that analyzes different mattresses for material, fire retardance, with comments.

She writes:

No government agency regulates the labeling of mattresses as "organic" or "natural," and trade groups like the International Sleep Products Association and the Specialty Sleep Association offer their members no guidelines for using the terms. Throughout the industry — as a number of people within it acknowledged in interviews — promotional materials are rife with vague or misleading information. "The whole thing is a smoke and mirrors industry," said Ralph Rossdeutscher, the president and owner of Natura World, a manufacturer in Cambridge, Ontario.

Others disagree, noting that mattresses are often made from polyurethane foam that can emit VOCs. They were also treated with fire retardants like PDBE and now have some of the newer chemical retardants for which the jury is still out. Then there is the phthalate-filled vinyl coverings on kids mattresses, the cotton grown with insecticides, and more. They make the case for organic mattresses.

"There's so much wrong with conventional mattresses that you really have to take a quantum leap and find a natural mattress," she [anti-chemical crusader Dadd] said, "rather than a conventional mattress that's better. Because they're not better enough."

Fortunately you don't have to spend thousands on an organic mattress.

For $300, for example, you can buy a 100 percent cotton or wool futon that rests on the floor. For less than $150, you can buy three or four cotton thermal blankets, fold them, then stack them on a metal rollaway bedframe, as she [Ms. Dadd] said she did in the early 1980s, when "there were no natural beds available, period." But is it comfortable? "It actually feels really good," she said, "because the cotton is nontoxic."

New York Times

The issue of fire retardants and their buildup in our bodies is one that TreeHugger has covered many times:

Blood Levels Of Flame Retardants Correlate With House Dust Exposure
Les Moutons, They Are Full of Fire Retardants
DDT Redux: PBDEs In Peregrine Falcons Close To Levels Damaging Developing Lab Rats & Mice

Related Content on Treehugger.com