Safeguarding Against Flame Retardants and Chemicals in Your Mattress

The bed you sleep on is the most important piece of furniture in your home. It should enhance your health and be free of chemicals as well as be comfortable. If you have a conventional mattress that is treated with flame-retardants and contains toxic chemicals, your body is not able to repair and rejuvenate during the night when sleeping. The following paragraph, taken from, further explains the importance of avoiding the toxicity in conventional mattresses today.

“While bed mattresses were previously made of untreated natural materials, the majority of mattresses today are made using a variety of petroleum based chemicals, foams, plastics and controversial flame retardants. Research and personal accounts suggest people can in fact become ill by repeated and continuous exposure to the low level of chemicals continuously emitted during the sleep process. The situation is dramatically compounded by the fact that sleeping on a bed (or chemically manufactured pillow) places the individual in extremely close proximity to the chemical source (inches compared to feet for most other chemical exposures). This direct contact means that concentrations of chemicals are many, many times higher than they would be if the source was at a greater distance, and thereby becoming less harmful because of dilution. Research is now available showing that chemicals used in bed manufacturing are in fact evaporating and entering into the air. Some of these are documented carcinogenic and mutagenic compounds. Common petroleum based chemicals have been clearly shown to have the ability to weaken or damage the immune and nervous system. Autoimmune disorders have also been linked with exposure to petroleum-based chemicals and have been found to be the underlying etiology of many common health problems today (soft tissue damage, arthritis, etc).”

Click here to read consumers’ reports of health problems linked to specific types of new mattresses.

What Can You Do?

There are steps you can take now to make your current conventional mattress a safer place to sleep until you are able to get a non-toxic bed or if you do not desire to buy a new bed and just want to make yours less toxic.

This is a method that involves covering the bed with materials that block the chemicals from escaping. Variations of the steps may be applicable to a particular bed. For example a very old mattress with no chemical treatment may only need to be aired out, HEPA vacuumed, and covered with a barrier cloth to protect from dust mites and a mattress pad. A conventional bed with flame-retardants and other chemicals would need to be covered with the aluminum foil and would possibly need all the materials listed below.

Note: It is NOT recommended to try to cover memory foam beds, as they are so highly toxic. These types of beds should be removed from the home.

The following procedure may seem extreme, but it has been found to work very well for the chemically sensitive if all the steps are followed. It is important for the chemically sensitive to NOT prepare the bed themselves.

Possible Materials Used

  • Large Heavy Duty Reynolds Wrap. 1 ml thick. Purchase at any grocery store.
  • Less Toxic Aluminum Foil Tape. The following options are available from E.L. Foust ( 1-800-225-9549) and are low odor adhesives:
    • Shurtape Aluminum Foil Tape AF 973  – Usually the first-choice adhesive of the chemically sensitive. (2 or 3 inch wide rolls – 46 meters long (approx. 150 ft.). 2.0 ml thick.)
    • Acrylic Adhesive  (2 inch reel tape)
    • Synthetic Rubber Adhesive (2 inch reel tape)
  • Zippered Barrier Cloth. Organic cotton barrier cloths are custom-made by the following companies.
  • Allersoft Zippered Cover. Available from Allergy Store ( 1-800-771-2246). Order all Cotton. This cover is tightly woven to 5.34 microns, thereby making it a great option for a dust mite cover. In order to stop dust mites you need at least a 10 micron weave.
  • Organic Cotton Mattress Pads
  • Old Sheets
  • Activated Carbon Blankets from Nirvana Safe Haven ( 1-888-267-4600, 1-800-968-9355). Call for sample piece of blankets. Activated Carbon Blankets will absorb the chemical fumes from mattresses. (This will not protect fully from foam mattresses.) To cover a king mattress, will need 2 – 3 carbon blankets – maybe more if you encase the entire mattress. Dalia of Nirvana Safe Haven can help determine how many will be needed. The carbon will last about 6 months. After 6 months, remove from bed, place in the sun a few hours and it is ready for another 6 months
  • Char Media from Dr. Jim Summers at Living Source (254-776-4878 or 254-776-0777) Order black char media (they carry a white char media as well).  Call for a sample piece. Note: The char media was tested on a non-toxic latex bed (that chemically sensitive person was sensitive to) and person was able to tolerate the latex bed with the char media wrapped around it.

Procedure for Wrapping the Bed

Step 1: Wrap box springs and mattress in aluminum foil.

  • Remove the mattress from the box springs.
  • Cover and wrap the box spring with foil  as well as you can, taping all the seams with Aluminum Foil Tape.
  • Wrap the mattress in the aluminum foil like a package. Tape all seams with Aluminum Foil Tape.  If you are chemically sensitive, then ideally you should not expose yourself to the adhesive on the tape.  Let someone else tape the bed.
  • When you tape the seams, make sure that the entire seam is taped so that there is no gap in the taping and nothing can come up from the mattress.
  • Note: When traveling take roll of aluminum foil and cover the hotel bedding. If you travel alone and are not able to pick up the mattress and contain the box springs and wrap the entire mattress, then just cover the top of the mattress and tuck in the foil on the sides. Tape the seams completely. See “Travel Protection: Bedding, Carpet, Air” for more information.

Step 2: Encase mattress and box springs in a zippered barrier cloth cover.

  • Barrier cloth is an extremely tight-woven 100% cotton fabric originally designed for medical use. Encasing the box springs, mattress, mattress pad, and pillow in a barrier cloth helps to protect the bedding, helps to contain odors, and prevents dust mites from getting on mattress and pillow.

Step 3: Apply organic cotton mattress pad if desired.

  • A cotton mattress pad on top of the mattress provides protection for the mattress and provides another layer of protection from the aluminum foil and mattress. Some people stop at this step. For further protection go on to step 4.

Step 4: Place old sheets on bed.

  • Provides a barrier to protect the bed from any carbon dust from the carbon blankets (Step 5: Option 1) or Char Media (Step5: Option 2)
  • The tighter the weave (higher thread count) the better.

Step 5:

  • Option 1 – Remove carbon blankets from polyester encasing and place on bed. Cover the bed and tuck in or wrap around entire mattress. If doing all the above steps just tuck the carbon blankets in.  If not taking steps 1-3, then wrap activated carbon blankets around entire bed. You can stitch the blankets together or slightly overlap them at the seams.
  • Option 2 – Instead of carbon blankets, wrap in char media. Call for sample material and compare to carbon blankets. Note: This will not protect against a toxic foam mattress.

Step 6: Cover carbon blankets or char media with old sheets.

  • The tighter the weave (higher thread count) the better.

Step 7: Apply another organic cotton mattress pad if desired.

  • A cotton mattress pad on top provides more protection from the materials.

Step 8: Make bed with sheets and blankets.

Step 9: Consider purchasing a metal free non-toxic bed when you are able.
As you can see, this is a lot of work, but your bed is the most important piece of furniture in the house. Remember, that is where your immune system and body are rejuvenated, repaired and detoxified.The tighter the weave (higher thread count) the better.

To get started with Branch Basics and to learn more about all natural, human safe cleaning products, start here.

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