People are often concerned about their sleep… not getting enough, not getting quality sleep, not being comfortable. People are often concerned about the chemicals they are exposed to on a daily basis… pesticides, VOCs, carbon monoxide. However, I rarely talk to someone who puts the two concerns together. Have you ever thought about the materials in your mattress and the effect they might have on your sleep?
Quietly in July of 2007, mattresses changed forever. New legislation required all mattress manufacturers to ensure the products they build and sell meet an all new standard of flame retardancy. Yes, flame retardancy… If you fall asleep on your mattress with a lit cigarette in hand, your mattress will not go up in flames. It’s the helmet law for mattresses. Keep in mind that mattresses have always been required to be flame resistant to a certain degree, however, that degree is now higher than ever. You can literally hold a blow torch to your mattress and (if it meets these new standards) only a small percentage will burn.

WARNING: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Mattresses are test burned in secure labs by professionals only- and it should stay that way!

I’m sure by complying with this standard, we are protecting people. I’ve heard though, that more people are killed by donkey or champagne cork accidents, than by mattress fires. Maybe it’s just a rumor, maybe it’s not. I’m much more concerned with the harm we are doing by meeting the standard.

The federal government regulates the level of flammability, not how we achieve that level. You burn the mattresses you make, you pass the test, you’re good to go! Many companies found that the most inexpensive way to achieve the new standard is to add more chemicals. In most cases, these chemicals are actually toxins. Boric acid is a great example. In layman’s terms, boric acid is roach poison. Wouldn’t you like to sleep on a bed filled with roach poison? At least it’s not flammable… Antimony trioxide is a known carcinogen- but again, it’s not flammable. The problem here is simple; we don’t know the effects of spending 6-8 hours per night, every night, for years, breathing in these toxins. I have to assume the outcome is not good. Paint can no longer contain lead. We’ve been told not to reuse plastic bottles because they can contain trace amounts of BPA. We can’t get a plastic straw any more and don’t get me started on light bulbs!  So why are we adding more toxins to our lives with this new legislation?

Manufacturers are not required to tell you how they achieve the new flammability standards. However, there is a way around this. The companies, like Holder Mattress, that are willing to give you all of the details are usually on the up and up and are concerned about these issues as well. We don’t want our employees exposed to these toxins every day, much less our customers! But if a company is unsure or not forthcoming with the information, you can have your primary care physician write a prescription for a non-flame retardant mattress. This prescription is a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for the manufacturer. It means they won’t add the flame retardant materials, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission won’t hunt them down for doing so.

At Holder Mattress, we were determined to find a better way. We meet all the same standards, but we do it as naturally as possible. In our more basic lines we use a low-melt polyester fiber. It is no different than the polyester fiber we were using before the new standards. It’s a non-toxic, synthetic fiber that happens to be inherently flame retardant. In our higher lines, we use wool. That’s it. 100% natural wool can resist flammability just as well as any toxic chemical, without the harmful side effects. Wool has other great features, too. It stays temperature neutral so you won’t get too hot, it won’t hold moisture so it doesn’t attract dust mites or allergens, and there is even research to suggest that wool is helpful for those who suffer from arthritis.

I urge you to do the research. The next time you are in the market for a new mattress. Find out what materials make up that mattress. Maybe you’ve recently purchased a mattress and are experiencing headaches, respiratory issues or rashes. You could be reacting to a chemical in your bed. I hope that years from now we discover that there are no ill-effects from these materials. However, until we are certain of that, we will continue to use the best, most natural materials.

Don’t be deceived into thinking that because of these flame retardancy regulations that your mattress is safer than ever before. It may be just the opposite…

About the author : Lauren Taylor

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