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What's Wrong with My Mattress?
Why would someone choose to buy an eco-friendly mattress? Exactly what is a green mattress? There are a variety of mattresses that can be considered a positive force for the earth and the indoor environment. Unlike conventional cotton and polyester-based bedding they are free of chemicals and pollutants. They are also significantly more expensive. The question is, are organic and latex mattresses worth the cost and effort?
A normal, cotton-based mattress is made with cotton, which has been grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Cotton fields are doused in harmful substances — California cotton alone is dusted with 6.9 million pounds every year. Sustainable practices, such as the promotion of biodiversity and the conservation of water, are not used. Buying a conventional mattress brings many of the chemicals and pesticide residues into the home, as well as bleaching agents and other chemicals used during production. These compounds are emitted, and can be released into the air as volatile organic compounds (VOC's).
Mattress filling is then treated with flame-retardants, including polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE's). PBDE's, which are not only used in bedding, but also in a variety of household products, have been consistently found in human blood and breast milk. After use, they end up in the waste stream, where they find their way into the air, water, and the earth, continuing to contaminate the life cycle. PBDE's are associated with damage to the reproductive system and developmental problems.
Other materials, such as vinyl, polyester, and polyurethane foam, are used to make mattresses. These substances are petroleum-based, highly synthetic products. Buying an eco-friendly mattress provides a clean, safe, chemical-free sleeping environment. Green mattresses are made from organic cotton, organic wool, and latex.
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Organic Cotton and Wool
An organic cotton mattress is made with organic material rather than conventional cotton. No chemicals are used during development or manufacturing. Organic cotton filling and padding is placed around the springs, and an eco-friendly flame retardant is used, such as wool. The mattress may be covered with wool as well. How much do they cost? Organic cotton mattresses range from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the size and brand. This is anywhere from two to three times the cost of a standard mattress.
Organic wool is often used in conjunction with organic cotton and latex. Wool is an ideal material for bedding because it is naturally resistant to mold and fire. It is also extremely soft and soothing. A wool mattress will decrease in size with use, so it does require regular rotation. It can last for decades however, making it well worth the cost. They also start around $1,000 for a twin size mattress. Shepherd's Dream makes a great natural wool mattress.
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A latex mattress is made from latex rubber. This material is a sustainable, renewable resource. It is flame-resistant, similar in comfort to a memory foam model, and very durable. Latex mattresses can last for thirty years. Many are made with or are coated with organic cotton or wool. An eco-friendly latex mattress will cost from $1,000 to $2,000 dollars, or more.
Is it worth the cost to purchase organic or latex mattresses? When a green mattress is considered as an investment, yes. Eco-friendly bedding does cost more, but the environmental and health benefits of a chemical-free bedroom are priceless. Just like any large investment, take your time, save your money, and find the perfect green mattress for you. You'll be sleeping on it for decades!
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"Fabric: Organic Cotton." (Patagonia) http://www.patagonia.com/web/us/patagonia.go?slc=en_US&sct=US&assetid=2077
"Household toxin — chemical flame retardant." by Jennifer Chait; dated December 6, 2009; (BlissTree) http://blisstree.com/live/household-toxin-chemical-flame-retardant/
"The Danger of PBDE's." (Science Today) http://www.ucop.edu/sciencetoday/article/17076
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photo by Geisha Boy (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/geishaboy500/137052187/>