The Trouble With Mattresses

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Most of us spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping on materials treated with toxic chemicals.
Why would we do such a thing? The answer is that most of us are ignorant when it comes to buying consumer goods; we generally assume that what is on the store shelves is safe.
The reality is that most mattresses and mattress covers are treated with toxic and polluting chemicals such as flame retardants, cotton pesticides, herbicides, water-, stain- and wrinkle-resistant treatments.
We sleep on these chemicals for a significant portion of our lives.
Some of these chemicals have been detected in human tissue and may persist for several years.
Making matters worse, some experts believe these chemicals may have health effects similar to PCBs and DDT.
Formaldehyde, used to make the adhesives required to hold the mattress together can cause asthma, allergies and various types of cancers, including lung, nose and throat.
Then there is the polyurethane foam itself.
A petroleum-based material, polyurethane foam emits volatile organic compounds that can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems.
Memory-foam mattress pads appear to be particularly bad for smell and chemical sensitivities.
One of the big issues has been the fire retardants that mattress companies have been required to use by law.
The troublesome polybrominated diphenyl ether (pbde), known to be toxic to the liver, thyroid and nervous system, was phased out in 2004.
Since then, mattress companies have generally not revealed what fire retardants are being used.
If you have a chemical sensitivity or allergies you may be able to order a mattress that doesn't pass the standard flammability test.
Organic mattress companies use a different solution for fireproofing mattresses.
They wrap the bedding in a layer of wool.
Something you can do immediately is to obtain a cotton barrier cloth encasement to lock the chemicals in your mattress.
Then throw out your polyester wrinkle-resistant sheets and replace them with cotton or organic wool sheets.
Once finished with a mattress then another concern arises, that of mattress disposal.
Mattresses and box springs are very problematic for landfill sites as they are large and difficult to compact.
The springs wrap around the compactors and wear out wheel bearings.
And for some reason mattresses always rise to the top of land fill sites.
No wonder disposal sites don't want mattresses, not even considering the potential for ground and water pollution resulting from the toxic chemicals.
Efforts are being made to recycle mattresses but they have some difficult challenges.
Mattresses are constructed so they won't come apart as a result of usage/abuse.
The recycling process generally consists of either manually dissecting the mattress with a box-cutter or they can be shredded with expensive machinery.
When you are disposing of your mattress there are few options.
You can try to give it to a charity.
But charities are very selective and will only take the mattress if it is only lightly used.
You can try giving it to a friend, family member or use it in a guest room.
If you live nearby a mattress recycling company then the best option is to deliver the mattress to them.
When buying a new mattress see if the store will take the old mattress back for recycling.
Many retailers won't take them back due to health and safety concerns.
To avoid or reduce the mattress disposal problem in the future, find yourself a partner to sleep with.
Only for saving the planet of course.
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