Health Tips - Beds and Bed Linens
To create a healthy bedroom, it is useful to find out about the chemicals involved in the manufacture of bedroom products. Formaldehyde is one of the chemicals used in all mattresses (as a component in adhesive and flame retardant) and bed linens. In this Material Safety Data Sheet, a formaldehyde manufacturer discloses the health-related information about their own product. They call it a “severe poison” known to cause cancer. It is a “strong sensitizer” that can cause “severe abdominal pain, violent vomiting, headache, and diarrhea”. Numerous studies have shown it to cause gene mutation. While it is not known how much formaldehyde makes it into your body from mattresses and bed linens, people spend about 8 hours a day in contact with this chemical.
From my experience with patients, toxins in bed linens can contribute to insomnia, fatigue and allergies. Instead, choose sheets, pillowcases, pillows, and blankets that are organic with natural dyes. These can easily be found on the internet.
Mattresses can be another source of unhealthy chemicals. Most mattresses are made from polyurethane foam, a petroleum-based material that emits volatile organic compounds, VOCs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some VOCs are known to cause cancer. VOCs add to ozone and smog formation and are linked to memory impairment and respiratory illnesses. The majority of mattresses are made with a variety of petroleum-based chemicals, foams, plastics and flame retardants such as modacrylic fiber (which contains antimony oxide, a cancer-causing chemical) and melamine resin (which contains formaldehyde).
In 2005, Walter Bader, author of the book Toxic Bedrooms, sent mattresses to an Atlanta lab for testing. A memory-foam model was found to emit 61 chemicals, including the cancer-causing benzene and naphthalene.
While it is a law in the United States that all mattresses must have flame-retardant chemicals, manufacturers can make you a flame-retardant-free bed with a doctor’s note. I am happy to provide that for anyone who needs it. To receive this, please do not email your request. You need to phone my office 1-818-808-0899 and ask for Carolyne.
I suggest using organic wool mattresses which are naturally flame-resistant (pass the federal flame tests in USA) and are chemically not stressful unless you are allergic to wool. As one thick wool mattress can tend to be firm and hard to move around, using two thinner (4” and less) wool mattresses on top of each other may be best for overall softness and mobility. Or, you could use one 4” mattress with a wool “topper” from Shepherd’s Dream.
Also, an organic wool topper over your regular mattress may act as a barrier to reduce exposure.
Regarding box springs and bed frames, the ideal for health is a wooden platform and non-metallic bed frame to support your mattress, as box springs contain metal coils which are not conducive to health. Metals in bedrooms can distort the body’s own electrical field.
Read the other health tips in my sleep and bedrooms series to learn how to keep your bedroom healthful and restful.
Sweet sleep and longterm health is worth the investment!
January 14, 2010