It had not occurred to me that my daughter's mattress may be hazardous until I can across literature on this after we had spent a few hundred dollars on a brand new mattress. As of this writing, my daughter is 22 months old and I recently had to purchase a second crib mattress for a summer rental. As such, I have only recently started delving into what to avoid in mattresses. I knew that there was discussion on toxins in mattresses but lived in denial until recently. I had been afraid to research this topic further for fear that I would learn that I should replace our brand new mattress (although it was an "organic" one) with another expensive one. Poor excuse, I know... but, my honest reaction.
As always after reading about toxins in our environment, after reading about toxins in children mattresses, I was alarmed and overwhelmed.
"Mattresses are a primary source of chemical poisoning in babies. The majority of baby mattresses today contain polyurethane foam, vinyl (PVC), phthalates, chemical fire retardants, and an extensive list of added industrial chemicals. These chemicals can leach out of the mattress or off-gas to expose the baby through inhalation and through the skin.
A mattress exposure is particularly problematic because it is up-close and long-term. Sleeping on typical crib mattresses, babies breathe and absorb these chemicals for 10 to 14 hours a day or more for a period of two or more years during the critical developmental period of their brains, nervous systems and immune systems. Babies who spend over 50-70% of their early life on baby mattresses are likely to receive pretty high doses of these chemicals and gases." (Protecting Your Child From Toxic Exposures" by Jane Sheppard; March10, 2009; HealthyChild.com)
The Data Should Be Sufficiently Compelling to Instigate Change. But, It's Hard to Digest... What Helped Convince Me To Invest In A Non-Toxic Mattress?
During my due diligence on which second crib mattress to buy, I spoke to a parent who said that when his daughter was four years old, the four year old had a number of severe allergies and even had blood in her stool. The doctors said the symptoms must be due to food allergies. The family immediately transitioned to a 100% organic diet and experimented with cutting out different foods to try to identify which ones were responsible. The family finally reached a point where they knew that food was not the culprit.
In the meantime, during their research, the parents had read about toxins in our environment -- especially in our homes. The first environmental changes they made were: (1) changing their daughter's mattress to a non-toxic one; and, (2) adding an air purifier to her room. Their daughter's health issues immediately improved and soon disappeared.
In addition, I found the following to be thought-provoking: several scientists claim that toxic gases released from crib mattresses, when breathed or absorbed by a sleeping baby, can cause crib death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to "Protecting Your Child From Toxic Exposures" by Jane Sheppard. These claims have not been 100% scientifically proven, nor have they been disproven, and there is urgent need for more research.
"It is important to note that a 100% successful crib death prevention campaign has been going on in New Zealand for the past 13 years. Midwives and other healthcare professionals throughout New Zealand have been actively advising parents to wrap mattresses. During this time, there has not been a single SIDS death reported among the over 170,000 (22%) New Zealand babies who have slept on mattresses wrapped in a specially formulated polyethylene cover. The number of crib deaths in New Zealand that have occurred since mattress-wrapping began in 1994 is about 860. The number of crib deaths that have occurred in New Zealand on a properly wrapped mattress is zero. The SIDS rate in NZ has dropped dramatically since this campaign began."
-- "Protecting Your Child From Toxic Exposures" by Jane Sheppard; March 10, 2009; HealthyChild.com
How to Identify a Non-toxic Mattress?
From "Protecting Your Child From Toxic Exposures" by Jane Sheppard, there are key categories of ingredients to avoid, such as:
After researching this topic, I had no choice but to invest in a non-toxic mattress for my daughter. I even became paranoid about what kind of mattress I sleep on in our summer rental given that we would like to have more children. After learning about the internal pollution that scientists are discovering in women and babies (click on Our Internal Pollution to watch a thought-provoking presentation by the Environmental Working Group), I seriously considered investing in a non-toxic mattress for our four month summer rental but have ultimately let the thought pass due to the impracticality (and expense!) of it. Instead, I purchased Austin air purifiers for the summer house.
I found selecting a safe mattress to be overwhelming because it took a while to figure out what to avoid. The more I delved into due diligence, the more innumerable the list of things to avoid became. Then, investigating what mattress companies are really putting in their products was daunting.
I spoke at length with two experts from two different retailers -- GreenCradle.com and ABC Home & Planet. After speaking with them, I became comfortable in their judgment as neither was pushing a sale on me; each was very knowledgeable about the mattress industry, various companies, and their manufacturing processes (and had visited mattress factories); and each seemed passionate and genuine about helping people make the right choices for their families. Also, a lot of what each said was consistent with each other.
"Organic" does not necessarily equate to mattresses that are free of toxins: the wrapping of a mattress may be made of organic material but the interior of the mattress may be comprised of harmful chemicals that off-gas. Both said that 98-99% of the mattresses on the market have toxic chemicals; any mattress components that may have come from abroad will most likely have been fumigated with chemicals during transport; "pure" mattresses manufactured in the same facility as conventional mattresses can absorb chemicals from the conventional mattresses; ... In summary, companies generally try to cut corners. So how to find a mattress company to trust?
Each (ABC Home & Planet in NYC and GreenCradle is in California) had the highest regards for OMI, as the leading manufacturer of pure safe mattresses, as pioneers in the non-toxic mattress industry. GreenCradle.com doesn't carry mattresses from any other brand; ABC Home & Planet carried mattresses from two other brands in addition to OMI. OMI is a leader in having the right certifications, manufacturing all components in the U.S.A., and in operating with commitment to purity and integrity. If you have further questions or would like further detail, then I would recommend contacting Edward (owner) of GreenCradle.com and Marisa (curator and shop manager) of ABC Home & Planet. They were each also helpful in helping me practically assess my existing mattresses.
Now, whenever I climb onto my daughter's bed to read her books, I feel especially relieved that we're on an OMI mattress. Thank you Edward and Marisa for helping me find peace with which mattress my daughter is sleeping on!