Monsters in Your Bed
by Maureen Erikson
Sept. 30, 2011
When you were little, monsters under your bed were perhaps the most frightening thing you could think of. Each night when you tuck your little ones in, and read them a bedtime story, do you stop to think about the nightmares that may not be lurking under the bed, but in the bed itself? The scary truth is that the conventional mattress could be as frightening as the purple hairy guy lurking below.
How long have you had your mattress? 3 years? 10 years? 20 years? Each year, a conventional mattress deteriorates in quality. The heavier the person, or people, sleeping on it, the more compressed the fibers and coils become, thus losing that important back and neck support that aids in a good sleep. The lifetime of a standard mattress is only about 10-15 years. Also, an average person sweats approximately a liter a day. Since you spend around 8 hours a day in bed, the absorption levels in your mattress can really add up. This moisture only helps to aid in mold, mildew, and dust mites collecting within your mattress. No one wants to share their bed with that!
Perhaps the most frightening things about conventional mattresses though, are the chemicals that are involved in production. Have you ever stopped to read that “DO NOT REMOVE” tag on your bed? It should list all the contents of your mattress. Although manufacturers are required by law to list the contents of the mattress, they are not required to list what those materials are made from. For example, polyurethane foam (often referred to as “memory foam”) is a common material in mattresses, which you would see listed on the tag. However, there is no mention of the chemicals that go into creating this product, or the off-gassing chemicals that you are exposed to as it breaks down over time, including styrene, isopropyl-benzene, limonene, trimethylbenzene, nitrobenzene, ethylbenzene, and dichlorobenzene. Many companies will advertise a cotton/synthetic blend for the cover of the bed. What isn’t mentioned is the use of environmentally harmful chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and defoliants appliedbefore manufacturing, and the residue that is left in the bed. Not only are they grown with chemicals, but after harvest, are often scoured with a caustic soda, and bleached to remove the natural color. So within that thin sheet of fabric that “protects” your bed, you are exposed to more harmful chemicals that you ever imagined.
Flammability of mattresses is something that people are often concerned with when purchasing a mattress. Each commercially sold bed is required to pass Federal Flammability Standards. For more information on these standards, please check out the Sleep Products Safety Council. However, most mattress materials are highly flammable, including polyurethane foam, which is often referred to as “solid gasoline.” To counteract these risks, mattresses are doused in flame-retardant chemicals during manufacturing in order to pass the standards. Two of the most common chemicals used for flame-retardant include Boric Acid and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs). Boric Acid is the primary ingredient in most bug sprays and flea-control products, removing the moisture from their bodies causing dehydration. This is not just dangerous for bugs, though. The EPA warns that there is potential for reproductive, developmental, and neurological damage in the use of boric acid, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said that “Breathing moderate levels of boron can result in irritation of the nose, throat, and eyes. Reproductive effects, such as low sperm count, were seen in men exposed to boron over the long term. Ingesting large amounts of boron over short periods of time can harm the stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys and brain. Animal studies have found skin irritation when boron was applied directly to the skin.” So for those of us with allergies, something as simple as our bed can hinder a good night’s sleep… or worse.
PBDEs were most commonly used in mattresses until 2005, so unless you’ve got a brand new bed, you are probably exposed to them every night. PBDEs are found in many items you may have in your home now, from your pajamas to your computer. Research shows that they have been accumulating in human bodies for the past several decades. The exposure to brominated compounds can interfere with thyroid hormones, and increase behavioral and memory problems. The European Union banned two of the three most common PBDE formulas in 2004, and in the US, California, New York, Hawaii, and Oregon has taken action against the production of products with PBDEs. However, products made before 2004, may still be exposing you to these harmful toxins.
So what can you do to get a good and healthy night of sleep?
Educate yourself. A great book to read on the dangers of mattresses is “Sleep Safe in a Toxic World” by Walter Bader. This book explores in depth the dangers of chemically off gassing beds and pillows, and what you can do to keep you and your family safe. Check out current industry standards before you make a new purchase. Being informed will only help you feel more confident in your future purchases.
Consider an organic mattress next time you decide you want a new bed. The benefits and longevity of a 100% natural latex mattress are extreme when looking at the alternatives. A 100% natural latex mattress is 300% more resistant to dust mites than any other foam. It is also biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and naturally resistant to bacteria, mold, and mildew. The organic wool covers are naturally fire-retardant, leaving your family to sleep and breathe free of harsh chemical exposure. A natural latex mattress on a good frame should last you 20+ years, without the breakdown that you see from conventional mattresses. And with a mattress such as an eRest, you have the customizable options to give you the proper firmness for your weight and height to give you a full night of relaxed sleep, whether you are sleeping alone, or with another.
So this Halloween season, consider what’s lurking in your bed for once, and how you can protect your family from those mattress monsters!