Organic Mattress Facts
Along with the rest of the organic movement, interest in organic mattresses has grown exponentially in recent years. Because they are generally chemical-free, organic mattresses provide some health benefits over traditional mattresses—although it is often unclear how much—and are also usually sold at a higher price. Therefore, it is important to compare quality with price when buying a mattress online.
Typically made of organic wool, organic cotton, and/or natural rubber and latex, organic mattresses are defined as being free of synthetic materials, having not been treated with chemicals and complying with organic standards. If a mattress only meets some standards, they are often defined as “natural.” See the first link below for a full list of organic mattress requirements, as deemed by the National Association of Organic Mattress Industry.
Many conventional mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, a petroleum-based material, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, has been linked to respiratory problems and other health issues. Many synthetic beds also have plastic coverings made of polyvinyl chloride (PVCs), a known carcinogen. Because of recent (2007) tightening of Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations for fire codes, all mattresses must have an open flame fire retardant component. While most traditional beds are treated with chemical retardants, the most toxic being PBDE (which is banned in Europe and has been shown to cause developmental defects in laboratory animals), many natural and organic mattresses claim to use less toxic or natural flame retardant options such as wool.
Concerns for Infants
Interest in organic mattresses is particularly high for infants and small children, who are more prone to respiratory problems. According to seven-year study of Australian infants published in the American Journal of Public Health (2005), children who slept in synthetic bedding as infants were more than twice as likely to develop wheezing compared with those who slept in natural bedding.
Organic mattresses are often more expensive than traditional mattresses, with most selling between £1,000-£3,000. Proponents of organic mattresses suggest that if you cannot currently afford a full organic mattress to try instead adding a natural mattress topper or encasings over a synthetic bed.
Because it is a relatively new industry, there is not currently a government agency that regulates organic mattresses. Some manufacturers only meet partial requirements; others are unclear about what materials they are actually using. Like many other industries, there are also disparities about whether the chemicals in traditional mattresses truly pose a threat to humans, and how much benefit organic mattresses actually provide.