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The Health Dangers in Your Mattress
By: Holly Barbo

Last fall I decided to seriously look into carrying mattresses in my store. As with every line I bring in, I researched what was available. I looked into quality and price point, how they were made and what they were made of. In the trade show I lay down on about ten different mattress brands that had made the first cut. I quizzed reps and read their information. But what really was the eye opener and the deciding factor was the fire retardant story.

The federal legislators passed a law that went into effect in 2007. It was well intended “feel good” legislation that would save us from ourselves and protect us from burning in our beds. All mattresses sold in the U.S. from that time, have to pass a 70 second, two foot wide blow torch of 2000 degrees. That put the mattress manufactures in a real problem solving bind. If they couldn’t pass the test they couldn’t sell mattresses and stay in business! What came out of that is a real toxic nightmare.

The common fire retardant chemicals used are: Antimony trioxide (acutely toxic and cancer causing), Boric Acid (insecticide and rat poison), Ammonium Polyphosphate (a fertilizer that breaks down into ammonia), Melamine (recently in the news- China made pet food), Formaldehyde (carcinogen and can cause blindness), Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC suspect in causing tumors), fiberglass and silica glass. Many of these chemicals have been proven to leach from the mattress, even through vinyl mattress covers, and be absorbed by our skin. The silica can be inhaled into our lungs as we sleep. This lovely bit of information is not conducive to sweet dreams.

There are no labeling requirements with this law. The mattresses simply must pass the test. So the stores are not required to tell the consumer what is in the mattress and can, in fact, deny having chemicals in their mattresses. I have heard statements such as, “Our mattresses pass the test because: they have Kevlar (that is just a strong thread), or wool which is naturally flame resistant (wool burns at 600 degrees, the test was 2000 degrees), or rayon (has silica, PVDC and phosphates or antimony).” There are other stories but I think you get the idea. In order to pass the test these chemicals are sprayed on the foam or the chemicals are woven into the cloth in the mattress. It is not just a sickening thought. People are really getting sick. Rashes, headaches, sore throats, bronchitis and coughing are just the start. Not everybody is as affected the same. Some people are more sensitive than others and some have weaker immune systems but it is a really nasty scenario.

What I would recommend is that you find a mattress company that, with a doctors prescription, will make you a fire retardant free mattress. There are a few mattress companies that will. The company that I carry will do that but they also give you another option. Instead of having the fire retardant chemicals sprayed on the foam they embedded a removable barrier cloth. What I mean is that there is a zipper that gives you access to the inside of the mattress. The barrier cloth, under the mattress cover, also has a zipper so you can unzip the barrier cloth and remove it from your mattress. Voila´! The chemicals are gone!

So I caution you, please be aware and choose your mattress carefully. After all, you spend a third of your life there. Be healthy.

---------------About the Author----------------

Holly Barbo has worked in the family furniture business for 18 years. For several years Holly has owned Barbo Furniture, selling quality manufactured furniture as well as Barbo designed and made case goods. She still works on the manufacturing side of the business fifteen hours a week and is one of the few furniture store owners who has torn apart, repaired, designed and built furniture. Barbo Furniture’s focus has always been on sustainable practices and products.  Recently she has been writing for Home Furnishigns Business, and can be followed on her sustainable furnishings blog.

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