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Green Guide Recommends Chemical-Free Bedding
AScribe Newswire
Published March 10th, 2005

NEW YORK-- A good mattress should give you a good night's sleep-and keep you safe. Since 1973, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has required that all mattresses meet its standards for "cigarette ignition resistance," meaning that when a lit cigarette is applied to its surface, the fabric will not ignite or show more than a 2-inch char. Since then, the majority of mattresses have been treated with fire retardants, typically polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), close chemical cousins to long-banned polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), high levels of which have been shown to harm children's development. This January, California has added a more demanding open-flame test.

Recent animal tests show the damaging effects of PBDEs in utero and on thyroid function, which can impair brain development. Studies also reveal just how prevalent PBDEs are in fatty tissue of humans, animals and fish. Levels in breast milk of American women are thought to be the highest in the world, at 40-60 percent higher than those of women in Sweden, for example, where bans on these chemicals are in effect. It also appears that among 5 percent of the U.S. population, body concentrations are nearing levels linked to the serious health effects revealed in the animal studies.

In California, two PBDEs are being phased out, with a total ban to go into effect after 2008. And the Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, the only manufacturer of penta- and octa-varieties of PBDEs, agreed to stop production in 2004.

In the meantime, there are several PBDE-free bedding choices. Look for mattresses wrapped in wool, which is naturally fire-retardant, whose labels say they meet the CPSC's and California's flammability-resistance standards. To support the environment as well as your health, go with organic cotton that has been cultivated without polluting pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Check labels to make sure that bedding is also produced without bleaching or stain- or water-resistant "finishing" (a process that uses offgassing chemicals such as formaldehyde). Undyed linens are free of the heavy metals found in conventional fabric dyes.

Green Mattresses

Cores are made from natural latex, derived from the sap of the rubber tree, or from cotton batting. Fabrics that cover and bind mattresses are cotton and/or wool that has not been chemically treated (look for the Pure Grow label). Note: Any mattress that does not use fire-retardant chemicals or the requisite composition and thickness of wool cannot be purchased without a doctor's prescription attesting that you have sensitivities to chemicals. Your best assurance of safety in any case is a working fire alarm for every bedroom.

Lifekind Organic and Naturally Safer Mattresses featuring cotton-wool quilting and non-synthetic latex interiors are currently manufactured in the U.S. (innersprings are available too). Prices start at $995 for twin; a crib size starts at $339.

In addition, Gaiam sells natural latex mattresses that feature a wool topper (for fire retardancy) and an untreated-cotton (but not organic) cover. $899 for a twin; a crib size is $299 (gaiam.com, 877-989-6321).

Affordable Alternative: IKEA makes PBDE-free foam mattresses for as little as $150 (ikea-usa.com).

Green Bedclothes: are made with organic cotton, undyed or colored with non-petroleum-based, plant-derived dyes and free of "finishes."

Under The Canopy sells sheets and blankets starting at $90 for a twin-sheet set (spiegel.com and underthecanopy.com, 888-226-6799).

The Eco Bedroom has a full line of sheets, blankets, baby bedding, mattress covers, bed skirts; $48 for a twin sheet (ecobedroom.com).

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