Friday, April 16, 2010

Do you know what's lurking in your mattress?

Do you know what's in the mattress you're sleeping on?  I'm not just talking bed bugs.  I'm talking toxic chemicals that have been banned in other countries.  That's right - if you're not sleeping on an all natural, organic mattress, you're most likely spending one third of your life breathing in toxic gases.  Not good.

When I first had Noah, I didn't know how important this really is.  I received numerous links and emails from natural parenting support groups warning me about the dangers posed by conventional mattresses, but I thought, "Hey, we recently spent $1800 on a top of the line mattress.  How bad could it really be."  I had a lot to learn, like many other things I've discovered since having a child.

I remember reading that the chemicals present in conventional bedding, including pillows and mattresses, readily enter a woman's breastmilk.  That really scared me.  Not to mention the fact that our child slept with us in our chemical laden bed.  And he was an infant with an immature, very delicate immune system compared to us adults.  As I learned more and more about all of these yucky chemicals and their effects on children and adults, it became clear to me that providing safe bedding was an important step in continuing to offer my child the best start in life. 

So we bought an all natural, organic cotton and wool full size bed, complete with organic sheets and pillows.  It was pricier and a little hard to adjust to since they are naturally firmer, but I am so happy we did this.  We also splurge on organic sleepwear for Noah.  They are pricier, but it's one of the things we feel is worth spending the extra money on.  After reading the information at the end of this post, you will understand why.  Sorry, but I don't feel like unnecessarily draping my child's body in chemical laden clothes while he sleeps at night. 

I only wish we could afford to buy an organic bed for my hubby to sleep in!  He just won't part with his $1800 bed.  Oh well, you do what you can!

Here is some information covering the various reasons for choosing organic bedding. 

Taken from The Natural Sleep Store at:

FAQ from The Natural Sleep Store

Why buy a natural and organic mattress?

1.  Your current mattress could be emitting toxic cancer-causing chemicals.

Conventional mattresses are filled with synthetic materials. For example, most mattresses contain polyurethane foam. Polyurethane foam constantly breaks down and releases chemicals, which is called off-gassing. Polyurethane foam is made from chemicals that are known carcinogens. Other toxic chemicals that can be found in conventional mattresses are PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) or boric acid. These are used in mattresses as a flame retardant.

PBDEs: these have been shown to have health effects in animals and are so toxic that Europe is phasing out the use of them completely! Read more about PBDEs at: or

Boric acid: this chemical is also quite toxic, and is in fact used as a roach killer. The EPA and CDC warn of reproductive, developmental, and neurological damage. It has many known health risks jus due to inhalation, a few of which are: inflammation of the upper respiratory tract (including dry throat and cough), eye irritation, and reproductive damage in men (including low sperm count). Please see the following link for the complete report:

Read more about boric acid in mattresses here:

What is that smell in memory foam? It is the off-gassing of toxic chemicals and is noticeably strong for weeks to months. This has been known to cause headaches and other severe health reactions in people who sleep on them. Get more information on the health effects of memory foam and conventional mattresses:

You can avoid all these toxins by choosing an organic mattress / natural mattress.

2.  People tend to sleep more soundly on a mattress that uses natural fibers.

A sleep study conducted by Peter R. Dickson (1984) examined sleep quality of participants when sleeping on natural wool (participants slept on a wool pad that was placed under their sheet). He found that participants moved (tossed and turned) significantly less in the night. Additionally, participants in the study reported that they had slept better and that they felt better the next day when sleeping on the wool. The less a person tosses and turns is related to greater quality of sleep! Wool is hypothesized to increase sleep quality and reduce tossing and turning because 1) it reduces pressure points; and 2) it regulates body temperature. Believe it or not, wool helps keep you warm when it is cold and cool when it is warm. Wool can do this because of its moisture-regulation quality. Here is how it works: when you get too hot, you sweat. If you are sleeping with bedding that is not natural, the sweat will remain near your body and not evaporate, and not cool you down. You can wake up feeling sticky and clammy. However, if you are sleeping with natural fibers, which are breathable, the sweat can evaporate from your body and cool you down. Wool is able to wick water away from your body and is able to absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture and still feel dry. Wool helps you stay warm when the air is cool because it is a natural insulator. There are air pockets in wool, which trap heat and let the air circulate near your body. In this way, your body heat stays regulated. If you have a consistent body temperature, you will toss and turn less and have a deep and restful sleep.


Dickson, P. R. (1984). Effect of a fleecy woolen underlay on sleep. The Medical Journal of Australia, 140, 87-89.

3.  Natural mattresses and organic mattresses help promote a healthy environment.

Natural Rubber/Latex: Natural rubber is harvested by tapping the milk (sap) of Hevea brasiliensis (the common rubber tree), which grows within 10 degrees of the equator. The rubber tree sap is whipped up and turned into latex foam. This is truly a sustainable resource because sap can be collected from the trees up to 180 days per year and the tree heals within an hour.

Organic Cotton: United States farmers applied nearly one-third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested (these chemicals are the most toxic classified by the Environmental Protection Agency). This can account for 25% of all the pesticides used in the United States. The use of chemicals in producing cotton can lead to massive environmental and health problems. You are helping sustain the environment if you buy a natural mattress made with 100% organic cotton, organic sheets, and/or organic bedding. Read more about pesticides at:

Organic Wool: Organic wool is produced without the use of hormones or pesticides, both in the animal and in the animal’s food. Wool is a sustainable resource because the sheep are not killed; they are merely shorn each year. See the quote from

In order for wool to be certified as 'organic,' it must be produced in accordance with federal standards for organic livestock production, which state:

• Livestock feed and forage used from the last third of gestation on must be organic.

• Use of hormones or synthetic hormones and genetic engineering is prohibited.

• Use of synthetic pesticides (internal, external and on pastures) is prohibited.

• Producers must encourage livestock health through good cultural and management practices.

That means that sheep cannot be dipped in pesticides to control external parasites, and all pastures must have gone a minimum of three years since last being treated with synthetic chemicals. Producers must also ensure that they do not exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land on which their animals graze.

Why choose organic for baby?

1.  One cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) may be from exposure to toxic chemicals being emitted from crib mattresses. Crib mattresses off-gas many toxic chemicals similar to adult mattresses (they are made from polyvinyl chloride [pvc], polyurethane, etc.). They also contain phosphorus, arsenic, and antimony compounds as preservatives and fire retardants. Toxic nerve gasses (phosphine, arsine, and stibine) can be emitted because of interactions with these chemicals and cause anticholinesterase poisoning and cardiac failure in infants. These chemicals are linked to SIDS; in fact, Richardson (1994) and Taylor (1996) found high levels of antimony in the blood and livers of babies who died from SIDS. An article in Midwifery Today goes into detail as well as explaining how these chemicals in crib mattress may be related to other SIDS risk factors (Quinn, 2002). To read this article, go to: However, there has been some revolt against the conclusion that baby mattresses can cause SIDS (see, for example, Mitchell, Fitzpatrick, & Waters, 1998). As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle; toxic chemicals in crib mattresses may be one of the many causes of SIDS. Either way, most parents are not willing to risk it.

See also for more information on SIDS.

Avoid exposing your baby to toxic chemicals by choosing an organic crib mattress and organic sheets for baby’s crib.


Mitchell, E.A., Fitzpatrick, M.G., & Waters, J. (1998). SIDS and the toxic gas theory revisited. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 111, 219-221.

Quinn, J.B. (2002). Baby's bedding: is it creating toxic nerve gasses? Midwifery Today, 61, 21-22.

Richardson, B.A. (1994). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: a possible primary cause. Journal-Forensic Science Society, 34, 199-204.

Taylor, A. (1996). Antimony, cot mattresses, and SIDS. The Lancet, 347, 616.

2.  Greater quality of sleep for baby.

As discussed above, sleeping on wool has been found to increase the quality of sleep in adults (Dickson, 1984). We expect that due to the temperature regulation quality in wool, the same would hold true for babies sleeping on an organic crib mattress with wool in it, perhaps even more for babies since they cannot manually regulate their temperature by adding or removing covers like an adult can.

The Natural Sleep Store is currently trying to track down three articles in The Lancet on babies’ health and sleeping on wool. Please check back soon.

3.  A great deal of infant sleepwear is treated with toxic fire retardants.

By law, infant sleepwear has to be fire- or flame-retardant. As cotton is not naturally flame-retardant, it is treated with flame retardants such as PBDEs, which may cause cancer. What is especially disturbing is that companies do not have to place this information on the label of the clothes. The Natural Sleep Store contacted Carter’s to find out if their sleepwear was treated with flame retardants. Their polyester sleepwear is NOT treated because polyester is naturally flame-retardant (however, their cotton sleepwear is treated with flame retardants). The only problem with polyester as a material is that it does not breathe well, which makes it difficult for baby to regulate his or her body temperature. The only ways to get around treating cotton sleepwear with flame retardants are to 1) not sell them as sleepwear; and 2) disclose on the label that it is to be worn snug-fitting.

See for a discussion on flame retardants in infant sleepwear.

Choose organic baby sleepwear to reduce exposure of toxic fire retardants for baby.

What is a natural rubber or natural latex mattress?

Latex rubber foam is encased in wool and/or cotton to make the most comfortable, yet supportive organic mattress out there.

In a natural latex mattress, latex rubber foam is the core of the bed. Latex rubber foam is dense foam that will last for 10 to 20 years. Latex is great as a core, because it helps relieve pressure points from sleeping on an innerspring mattress, helps keep your spine in alignment, and is inherently hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial and dust-mite-resistant. However, natural latex doesn’t offer the breathability that cotton and wool can, so our natural latex mattresses are encased in organic cotton and organic wool. When sleeping on natural mattresses, circulation can be increased, tossing and turning can be reduced, and you will be breathing clean air. This helps you sleep more deeply!

Why should you sleep with natural or organic bedding?

Many cotton sheets are treated with formaldehyde to produce less wrinkles.

Non- organic cotton sheets are often treated with a formaldehyde-based finish that reduces wrinkling. These sheets don’t even have to have a label informing you of what they were treated with! Formaldehyde is a cancer-causing chemical that, unfortunately, is found in many common household items like furniture, particle board (which is actually used in the construction of your house), paints, and carpet. It would be hard to completely avoid exposure to formaldehyde, but about 1/3 of your life is spent sleeping, so by avoiding breathing formaldehyde fumes while you sleep (by using an organic mattress with organic cotton sheets) could greatly reduce your overall exposure. Follow this link for more formaldehyde information:

Additionally, the conventional cotton growers use more pesticide than almost any other crop. If you choose organic, you are choosing to help save the planet!

Choose chemical free organic cotton sheets and/or organic bedding to avoid formaldehyde.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Primal Pregnancy?

Sorry it's been so long!  I've missed getting on here and spilling my heart out about about some of the things I am most passionate about. 

So...for those of you who don't already know, I'm pregnant!  So exciting!  I'm wondering if this one's a girl because I don't remember feeling nearly this bad, as far as morning sickness goes, when I was pregnant with Noah.  I am so nauseous most of the day and have terrible indigestion.  Hopefully I only have a few more weeks of this hungover/motion sickness/stomach flu feeling to go and then I can enjoy my second trimester honeymoon period.  Ahhh the hubby will be so happy.  I have neglected my homemaker duties in a serious way since feeling like this!

Unfortunately, I have totally fallen off the wagon when it comes to primal eating.  But I am coming to terms with it after beating myself up day after carb-fueling day.  I figure once I feel better I can jump right back into my commitment to shunning grains.  Luckily I don't crave sweets too often.  But cooking and eating most of my old protein-rich go-to's just grosses me out.  So to feed my growing belly, I have been turning to more grains than I would like to admit.  A girl has to eat something!  Luckily I still love fruit, especially grapefruit. 

I will say that the days I stick to eating a lot of protein, which are naturally my most primal-eating days, I feel best.  My midwife even said that "protein builds bodies, carbs do not" so we really don't need as many carbs as we think we do. And I read that women who eat a paleo diet have easier pregnancies and deliveries, which totally motivates me to stick to this lifestyle.  There are just so many benefits to a primal lifestyle.  When I indulge in a carby snack or meal, I feel so awful afterward.  Those multi-grain hotcakes the other day tasted soooo good going down but man did I pay for it the rest of the day.  The next day, I chose a protein-rich egg scramble meal and I felt loads better.

Anywho, I will keep you posted on the adventures of my primal pregnancy.  My next post will be about the importance of organic bedding :)