Is it true that traditional mattresses and bedding can cause environmental

Is it true that traditional mattresses and bedding can cause environmental and health problems, and if so, what alternatives are out there?

—Jay & Aubrey Gillespie, via e-mail

With all we know today about synthetic chemicals and their effects on our health, going green in the bedroom—where we spend a third of our lives—makes more sense than ever.

Traditional mattresses and bedding contain a slew of potentially harmful chemicals that can “off-gas” from fabrics, padding and framing and get inhaled or ingested. One of the most harmful is formaldehyde, which is used in many adhesives and can cause eye and throat irritation, headaches and nervous system disorders. And carcinogenic flame-retardants known as PBDEs, many of which are now banned in Europe and some U.S. states, still turn up in some sleep products. Most people fare just fine on their mattresses despite proximity to such offensive substances, but those with sensitivities to synthetic chemicals might want to consider greener bedding options. Luckily, there are many varieties to choose from.

Some very affordable green mattress options are available from manufacturers like Lifekind, Cozypure, Vivetique/Dreamlite, Royal-Pedic, Greensleep/Vimala, EcoChoices and Keetsa. Most of these companies make mattresses with natural latex cores, wrapped in naturally flame-retardant cotton and/or wool. Online retailer Gaiam carries some of these brands, and Ikea also now offers PBDE-free mattresses that just about anyone can afford. Also, many independent green stores are sprouting up in communities around the country and are probably the first place to look in the interest of supporting local merchants and minimizing the need to ship products long distance.

Traditional mattresses and bedding contain a slew of potentially harmful chemicals that can “off-gas” from fabrics, padding and framing. Fortunately there are many alternatives now available, such as this organic, chemical-free mattress from Lifekind.© Lifekind

As for bedding, environmentalists” main bugaboo is the use of traditional cotton, which requires huge fertilizer and pesticide inputs to grow and causes pollution during the industrial bleaching process. But with consumer demand for greener products through the roof, organic unbleached cotton is becoming more widely available. Some leading organic cotton bedding labels to look for include Cozypure, Lifekind, Holy Lamb Organics, Mary Jane”s Farm, The Green Robin, Jan Eleni, Kushtush Organics, Native Organic, Northern Naturals and Under the Canopy, among many others. Most environmentalists embrace wool blankets for their warmth and breathability, although sustainably harvested down in organic cotton duvets provides a viable green alternative as well. Online retailer Greenandmore.com has a wide selection of environmentally friendly and hypoallergenic down comforters, as do many local green stores.

Once you”ve banned synthetics and chemicals from the bedroom, no doubt you and your whole family will rest a little bit easier.

CONTACTS: Lifekind; Cozypure; Greensleep/Vimala; EcoChoices; Keetsa; Gaiam; Ikea; Holy Lamb Organics; Mary Jane”s Farm; The Green Robin; Jan Eleni; Kushtush Organics; Native Organic; Northern Naturals; Under the Canopy; Green and More