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Simplifying the Search for a Healthier Mattress: A Guide to Choosing an Organic Mattress



I recently had to embark on the process of purchasing non-toxic king single mattresses for my children after we made the decision to upgrade their sleeping situation to a bunk bed. I had not had to purchase a mattress in Australia (all my non-toxic mattresses came with us when we moved from the USA to Aus) so the process was an interesting one.


I found the search for a healthier non-toxic and ideally organic mattress quite time consuming and confusing, and that is coming from someone that reads labels and investigates materials FOR A LIVING! I can only assume it is 10x more confusing and overwhelming for someone that just wants to know they are making a healthier choice for themselves of their family.


As someone passionate about simplifying toxin-free living, I am here to help make the process more straightforward. So, here's my best advice on researching, shopping for, and buying an organic mattress. My primary objective in promoting a healthy home, the concepts I share, and the products I endorse is to significantly simplify the task of eliminating toxins.


While mattresses are my number 1 'most important' when it comes to a non-toxic home, they are also costly and last a long time (so are not frequently purchased). I always tell clients that when it comes TIME to make that choice, that is the right time to do so. Not everyone has the luxury of throwing out a basically new mattress to swap to a healthier option, and if you're not in a position to buy an non-toxic mattress now, consider alternatives like using an organic mattress cover to minimise toxins from your current mattress.


Plan for the future and work towards the next toxin-free change you can make.


 


WHY IT MATTERS TO YOUR HEALTH

We spend a LOT of time inside our homes, and sleeping, on average 6 to 8 hours per night, which adds up to an average of 2,555 hours annually. This underscores the importance of the health of our sleeping environment. Our bodies come into direct contact with the mattress, bedding, and pillow for extended periods, especially during vulnerable moments when our bodies are actively repairing and restoring.


Our skin, being not only our largest organ, absorbs substances it encounters and serves as the gateway to our internal systems, transporting both beneficial and harmful elements to our bloodstream (source).


Also, it's not just our skin that absorbs toxins; our lungs are also affected, given our faces are so close to the mattress while sleeping which exposes us to VOCs and other off-gassing toxins (source). Similar to our skin, this serves as a direct path to our bloodstream, subsequently circulating these substances throughout our entire body.


A toxin-free mattress and sleeping environment are crucial for supporting the body's nighttime recovery and avoiding unnecessary chemical exposure.


 



WHAT TO AVOID

Flame Retardants: Chemical flame retardants, like brominated flame-retardants (BFRs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), pose health risks due to their toxic nature. Associated with endocrine disruption, thyroid dysfunction, reproductive problems, and neurological issues, these chemicals can persist in the environment, leading to pollution and bioaccumulation in living organisms (source). Additionally, mattresses containing flame retardants may release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through off-gassing, potentially impacting respiratory health (source).


Vinyl and PVC: Vinyl and PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) can be hazardous in mattresses due to the toxins they contain, including high levels of chlorine (source). Studies suggest that exposure to these substances may pose health risks (source). PVC also includes phthalates, which are associated with reproductive problems, hormonal disruption, and potential cancer risks (source). Therefore, these materials are considered potentially harmful to both human health and the environment.


Synthetic Latex: is made from petroleum-based compounds. During the manufacturing process, synthetic latex incorporates toxic chemicals, contributing to off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (source) . These VOCs released by synthetic latex can negatively impact indoor air quality and respiratory health, making natural latex a preferable, less harmful alternative for those seeking a healthier mattress option. Styrene, present in synthetic latex, is a petroleum-derived substance and a potential carcinogen (source). Apart from its carcinogenic properties, Styrene has adverse effects on the central nervous system and kidneys.


Petroleum-Based Foam: Petroleum Based Foam, including Polyurethane and memory foam, consists of petrochemicals that emit harmful VOCs (source). Even mattresses labeled as made of plant-based foams may release VOCs, similar to polyurethane foam. Polyurethane foam often contains integrated flame retardants, and it releases toxic toluene into the air, found in gasoline fumes, vehicle exhaust, and cigarette smoke (source). Additionally, the glues used in the manufacturing process to bind foam layers, mattress components, and fabrics together contain VOCs and formaldehyde, known to off-gas throughout the product's lifespan, potentially contributing to health issues like cancer, heart damage, nervous system problems, and liver and kidney complications (source).


Chemical Antimicrobials: Often added as a "bonus" these are advertised as being used to keep mattresses clean and fresh. However chemical antimicrobials can lead to the development of stronger bugs and bacteria, countering their intended purpose. Avoid anything that has synthetic chemicals added or advertised as 'antimicrobial'



 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN AFFORDABLE NON-TOXIC MATTRESS


GOTS Certification: One of the premier certifications for organic textiles and fibres is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This certification encompasses stringent criteria across processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading, and distribution of fabrics. To qualify, textiles must comprise a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres, adhering to strict mandates throughout processing and manufacturing. The certification safeguards products by imposing restrictions on the use of synthetic compounds such as PVC, chlorine, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and solvents..

 

GOLS Certification: The Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) imposes rigorous standards on latex crafted from organic, raw materials. To obtain this certification, a product must comprise over 95% certified organic raw material and undergo an emission test to minimise harmful substances. This certification delineates a transparent procedure from the farmer or field level to the manufacturing process. Products bearing this logo are obligated to adhere to mandatory social and environmental regulations.

 

GECA: Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) is a certification mark indicating that a product meets high environmental standards. Awarded by an independent, non-profit organisation, GECA certification encourages eco-friendly choices, promotes sustainable practices, and contributes to reducing the environmental impact of goods and services.

 

Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Label: is for textiles and other components of a product, including thread, accessory parts, and coatings. It certifies that the textiles used in a product, such as mattresses, meet strict requirements and do not contain harmful chemicals at any stage of production. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is known for its rigorous testing criteria and is considered trustworthy because it ensures that certified products are free from substances that pose a risk to human health. The certification covers a wide range of potentially harmful substances, providing consumers with confidence in the safety of the labeled products.

 

MADESAFE Certification: is a certification that verifies a product is made with safe ingredients not known to harm human health or the environment. This rigorous certification process examines the components and materials used in a product but does not test them. MADE SAFE seeks to ensure that products are free from harmful substances, contributing to consumer safety and environmental well-being.


 

Greenguard Gold Certification: This certification is awarded to products with low chemical emissions, indicating they contribute to better indoor air quality. This certification, provided by UL Environment, signifies that a product meets stringent standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants. GREENGUARD Gold-certified items are suitable for environments where occupants, particularly children and sensitive individuals, benefit from reduced exposure to indoor air pollutants, promoting healthier indoor spaces.

 

eco-INSTITUT Certification: is a stringent certification for mattresses and other products that ensures low emissions of harmful substances. This certification is important for mattresses as it signifies that the product has been tested for and meets strict criteria regarding indoor air quality. By prioritising this certification, consumers can have confidence that the mattress they choose has undergone thorough testing to minimise the release of potentially harmful pollutants, contributing to a healthier indoor environment.

 

CertiPUR-US: is a certification program that focuses on the environmental and health performance of polyurethane foam used in mattresses and other upholstered furniture. Mattresses with CertiPUR-US certification meet specific criteria, ensuring that the foam is made without harmful substances such as ozone depleters, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and certain flame retardants. This certification matters for a mattress as it provides consumers with confidence that the foam used in the product meets rigorous standards for safety, emissions, and durability, contributing to a healthier and more environmentally friendly choice.

 

Natural and Organic-Based Latex Foam: Ensuring chemical-free assurance through proper certifications, this option contains no chemical properties. Derived from the bark of rubber trees, natural latex is hypoallergenic and regulates temperature during sleep. Its inherent flame resistance eliminates the need for additional chemical flame retardants.


Organic Cotton: Cultivated without pesticides or synthetic fertilisers, organic cotton is a non-irritant without bleach or chemical processing. Its high breathability prevents moisture entrapment, reducing bacterial issues and naturally maintaining a cool mattress and sleeping environment.


Organic Wool: A time-tested mattress material, wool is a renewable resource from sheep with various benefits. Naturally flame-resistant, sheep's wool keeps bedding drier through moisture-wicking properties, resisting mould and mildew for a toxin-free and healthy mattress.

 

MY FAVOURITE BRANDS (AUSTRALIA)

Peacelily: Australian-owned, manufactured in Sri Lanka. 100% organic natural rubber latex. GOTS Certified. Single is smallest size. Most affordable and what I chose for my boys.


The Natural Bedding Co: Australian-owned and made, cot and bassinet mattresses are made from GOLS-certified coconut coir core wrapped in untreated Australian Downs Wool. Bassinet size is custom made


Mialri Organics: Australian-owned, made in China. Cot mattress is made from certified GOTS organic cotton, coconut coir, pure latex and wrapped in 100% Australian wool.


Quokka Beds: Australian-owned, natural latex mattress manufactured in Sri Lanka. Cot mattress is made from 100%organic latex and rubberised coir (coconut fibre). GOTS, eco-INSTITUT, OEKO-TEX


Blessed Earth: Australian-owned and made. 100% organic wool and cotton. GOTS Certified. Cot sized can be customised to fit.


Organature: Australian-owned and made. 100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton. Bassinet size made to order (they also do prams). Great for those allergic to natural latex. GOTS and GOLS Certified.


Zentai: Australian-owned and manufactured. Certified Organic Latex Mattress with Organic Cotton Cover. GOLS, GOTS, Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1, and eco-INSTITUT.


Nursery:

Nature Baby: New Zealand-owned and made. Bassinet and moses basket sizes 100% organic wool knops with 100% pure organic cotton/linen blend cover.


Heveya: Singaporean-owned, manufactured in Spain, 100% organic natural latex, bamboo and organic cotton. GOLS, GOTS and OEKO-TEX Certified.


* Eco Kids: Australian-owned and manufactured. 100% natural foam, bamboo and cotton**, OEKO-TEX® Standard 100,GECA. I hesitate to include this mattress as it contains metal inner springs, which from an EMF standpoint I do not recommend, however I know some people prefer inner-spring so am including for that reason only.


MY FAVOURITE BRANDS (USA)

Cocomat: This is the mattress I use. Greek owned and made (available in 20 countries), Cot size 010% natural latex, coconut fibre (coir) and natural cotton cover. Oeko-Tex.


Naturepedic: USA-owned and manufactured. Cots (and single) made with 100% organic cotton, waterproof layer made from sugarcane. GOTS, GOLS, Greenguard GOLD and MadeSafe


Saatva: USA-owned and manufactured. 100% natural latex, organic cotton and wool. eucalyptus fibre, Greenguard GOLD, Cradle to Cradle GOLD, OEKO-TEX® Standard 100


Essentia: Canadian-owned and manufactured.100% organic latex, organic cotton cover.GOTS, GOLS and Beyond Organic.


Savvy Rest: USA-owned and manufactured. 100% organic latex, cotton and wool. GOTS and GOLS Certified


Obasan: Canadian-owned and manufactured. 100% .organic latex, coconut husk and cotton, 100% organic wool moisture pad.GOTS, GOLS


Plushbeds: USA-owned and manufactured. 100% .organic latex, cotton and wool. GOTS, GOLS, Greenguard GOLD, Eco-Institut. USDA Organic.


Soaring Heart: USA-owned and manufactured. 100% .organic latex, cotton and wool. GOTS, GOLS, USDA Organic.


* My Green Mattress: USA-owned and manufactured. 100% organic coir, organic wool and cotton cover.GOTS, GOLS, Oeko-Tex , ECO Institute. Greenguard GOLD. I hesitate to include this mattress as it contains metal inner springs, which from an EMF standpoint I do not recommend, however I know some people prefer inner-spring so am including for that reason only*


Kalon (kids and babies): USA-owned and manufactured. Crib mattress is 100% organic coir, natural latex, natural wool, and organic cotton.GOTS, GOLS, Oeko-Tex , ECO Institute

 


LOOKING AFTER YOUR HEALTHY MATTRESS


Cleaning: Regularly clean your mattress using methods like sprinkling baking soda, letting it sit, and then vacuuming it up. Its important to keep it dry so clean up any spills as quickly as possible and air dry in sun.


Zipped Cover: Protect your mattress with an all-natural cover with a zipper, fully encapsulating it and shielding it from sweat and dust.


Rotate: Rotate your mattress every six to eight weeks to ensure even wear and avoid divots.


Change Your Sheets: Wash sheets every 1-2 weeks with an all-natural detergent to maintain mattress hygiene.


Creating a toxin-free sleeping space is a significant investment, but knowing what to look for simplifies the process. Keep an eye out for sales and focus on creating a healthy home and sleep sanctuary.



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