At Healthy Child Healthy World, we get asked almost weekly about how to find safer mattresses on a budget. And, it’s no wonder when you look at the premium prices on organic and eco-friendly options. Sticker shock is amplified to sticker stupor.
Of course you want the safest sleeping situation for your family, but what can you do if it’s simply not financially feasible to buy all organic stuff? Read on to learn how to prioritize the specific risks and how to reduce them on a dime.
Conventional mattresses are made using polyurethane foam, treated with flame retardants, sometimes covered in PVC, potentially treated with more flame retardants, and then maybe some stain guard for good measure. Thus, this seemingly benign sleeping surface potentially exposes people to toluene, styrene, ethyl benzene, isopropylbenzene, antimony trioxide, vinylidene chloride, lead, phthalates, and other chemical nightmares.
Clearly, exposure to toxic chemicals in mattresses is a legitimate concern, but it’s also very complicated. It’s difficult to find out exactly what’s being used in most products; every individual can have unique reactions; and, there’s little research on potential health hazards.
For the sake of brevity (in an already long blog post), my recommendations are focused on baby and kids’ mattresses. You’ll find a link to a more thorough assessment at the end.
Since babies and children are more vulnerable and since they spend more time with their faces buried in it’s fibers, the mattress should be a priority. If there is one organic product to splurge on, this is it. If you can’t, don’t despair – here are two ideas:
1. Make one request for your baby shower or child’s birthday; have everyone pitch in on an organic mattress.
2. Make do with a conventional option.
- Look for a mattress that is not covered in PVC and has as few chemical treatments as possible.
- Air out a new mattress until there’s no longer any hint of chemical smell. This is no guarantee that all the chemicals have off-gassed, but it should be significantly less.
- Flame retardants are released from the mattress as it breaks down, so you’ll want to try to encapsulate the dust. A tightly woven cotton barrier cloth meant to keep in dust-mites can help with the dust.
- If you’re worried about on-going off-gassing, you’ll need an impermeable cover. There are mattress pads and covers made from a special food-grade polyethylene plastic that not only do not off-gas themselves, but also reduce off-gassing from mattresses. I know many moms may cringe at the idea of encapsulating their child’s bed in plastic, but this solution will reduce chemical exposure and it is very affordable.
- Look into a simple cotton futon that’s been treated with boric acid instead of the nastier flame retardants often used.