Planet

Toxic Mattresses

Are toxic sleeper cells sneaking into your home in your mattress?

Small-business owner Leora Hornick's allergies had always been a problem, but as she got older, her symptoms—runny nose, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, persistent fatigue—continued to plague her. Visits to traditional medical doctors brought no relief, so Hornick took her health into her own hands, researching alternative remedies and looking for the root cause of her maladies. To her surprise, all evidence pointed an accusing finger at an unlikely source: her mattress.

Unlike the products we consume, the surfaces we sleep on aren't legally mandated to include an ingredients list, leaving many consumers unaware of the chemical stew lurking beneath the cushy pillow top and satin piping of their conventional mattresses. In addition to being treated with a flame-retardant cocktail of boric acid, formaldehyde, melamine, antimony trioxide, decabromodiphenyl oxide, and other chemicals, mattresses are often made with petroleum-based foams that off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) while we sleep. Consumer advocate Mark Strobel has devoted years to researching the adverse health effects of mattress flame-retardants and says one of the most common—antimony trioxide—is one of the worst. "Prolonged exposure can cause your heart to beat irregularly or stop, and can lead to miscarriages, birth defects... It's real nasty stuff."

Armed with this knowledge, Hornick gave her old bedding the heave-ho in favor of an organic version, and—as if by magic—nearly all her allergy symptoms vanished. Considering we spend one-third of our lives in bed, it only makes sense that we'd want to invest—and thoroughly investigate—all of our options. "People don't want this toxic soup in their lives anymore," says Hornick. "They're already eating organic food and using organic cleaning products. This is just the next step."

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