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Organic is the new buzzword of the millennium yet organic is an old concept. Before the development of insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, and growth hormones, fruits, vegetables, grains, animals, and all their various by-products were raised organically—that is without additives not found in nature.
Today’s big news is that chemicals that were once embraced by farmers for increased crop yields are now being questioned as more and more people discover the side effects of the chemically altered foods and animals that are farmed and raised. Chemically or genetically altered plant growth is done using GMOs or genetically modified organisms. Due to these new growing and raising methods organic production is now coming full circle, and in some ways consumers have taken a healthy step backwards in time.
A newer facet of the organic push is that of organic bedding, and in particular, organic mattresses. People spend approximately one third of their life in bed so it’s only natural that those who are concerned about the quality of the food they put into their bodies should also be concerned about the quality of where they literally spend years of their lives—a mattress.
Modern mattresses, the kind most people are familiar with, were developed in the 1930s. These mattresses evolved using coiled metal springs, layers of petroleum based foam, and were topped with a manmade fabric and artificial fibers fillers. Few, if any, of the materials used are organic.
It wasn’t until the organic food movement began that people began to wonder what chemicals or toxins in their mattress might also be in the air they breathed at night or seeping through the pores of their skin while they slept. They didn’t have to wonder for very long. Studies quickly proved that most conventional mattresses used petroleum-based materials which emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) particularly when new. VOCs are known to cause nose, eye, and throat irritation as well as nausea, headaches, and damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver.
Prior to the mattress modernization, mattresses were handmade using. Mattress stuffing came from straw, leaves, horse hair, cotton, wool, and feathers; the most luxurious of these stuffings being either goose feathers or eider down.
While all of these are organic, they are also notorious for being allergens. Today’s modern organic mattresses have combined the traditional with cutting edge technology creating a hybrid organic that works for almost anyone who wishes for a good night’s sleep.
When buying an organic mattress, look for mattresses made with untreated, all natural wool which is naturally resistant to dust mites and flames. Natural latex made from rubber trees is an alternative to oil-based latex. Organic cotton is another option, but is not flame resistant so it will be wrapped in wool to meet safety requirements.
Before buying, listen for organic catchphrases such as biodegradable, unbleached, natural, additive-free, and non toxic. Ask to see a breakdown (in writing) of the components used in their mattresses. Because there are no industry standards regarding what it means to be “eco-friendly”, “natural”, “organic” or “green”, manufacturers can describe their products with these words, but do not have to reveal the contents of their products.
According to an article in the New York Times, “No government agency regulates the labeling of mattresses as “organic” or “natural,” and trade groups like the International Sleep Products Association and the Specialty Sleep Association offer their members limited guidelines for using the terms.”
Perhaps the best advice for going organic in the bedroom is as one mattress manufacturer states, “If they can’t pronounce it, they won’t put it in your mattress”.