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How Safe is Your Bed? The Healthy Bed Quiz

How Safe is Your Bed? The Healthy Bed Quiz

Sinking down onto a healthy mattress for a healing, rejuvenating sleep isn’t as easy as you might think.

Who knew that most mattresses are chemical “wastebaskets” full of potentially health-damaging material? So concludes indoor air quality expert Dr. Rosaind Anderson of Anderson Laboratories Inc., after study of mattress emissions from some of the best-selling mattress models.

The chemicals in bedding most often cited as potential sources of concern are pesticides, herbicides, fire retardants, stain-resistant solvents, the various substances in synthetic fibers, and formaldehyde.

How safe is your bed? Take our quiz and find out, and read about some simple solutions— and some of these are inexpensive!

QUIZ
Count One Point For Every “Yes,” and Subtract One Point for Every “No.”

1. Was your mattress a standard model (i.e., it wasn’t designated as organic cotton, wool, or latex)?

2. Do you assume your mattress has a fire retardant because it isn’t pure organic wool, which is naturally fire resistant?

3. Do you put the bedding on the bed without a plastic encasing around your mattress and pillow?

4. Do you have a plastic encasing around your mattress?

5. Do you put the bedding on the bed without a cotton barrier cloth with a high thread count encasing your mattress and pillow?

6. Do you have a pillow made out of synthetic ingredients such as polyurethane or polyester?

7. Does your mattress have a synthetic smell?

8. Does your pillow have a synthetic odor?

9. Is your mattress made of polyurethane foam?

10. Do you have a digital clock on the bedside table?

11. Do you have a halogen lamp near the bed?

12. Is the bed’s frame treated with paint or stain that has an odor?

13. Is the bed’s frame made of particle board?

14. Are the sheets made of polyester?

15. Are your blankets and comforters made of synthetic materials?

16. Do you sleep with an electric blanket that is or is not turned on?

17. Do you sleep on a waterbed?

18. Besides a clock and lamp, do you have other appliances plugged in near your bed, such as a television or computer?

SOLUTIONS
If you answered any questions with a “Yes,” you have some
environmental indoor air quality issues. Here are some suggestions to improve the situation:

1. Was your mattress a standard model (i.e., it wasn’t designated as organic cotton, wool, or latex)?
Replace the mattress with organic cotton, wool, or latex, or cover the mattress with a cotton barrier cloth encasing as found at healthyhome.com. For a green bed on a budget, it works very well to buy used mattresses that have outgassed and then cover them with barrier cloth. Just make sure not to buy used mattresses in places that “deodorize” their used products. I have good luck with want ads.

2. Do you assume your mattress has a fire retardant because it isn’t pure organic wool, which is naturally fire resistant?
You can check with the manufacturer of your mattress to find out what fire retardant has been used. Wool is naturally fire resistant and is not chemically treated for this reason, although most sheep are regularly dipped with pesticides to control parasites, so you must specify organic wool if you desire a pure mattress.

3. Do you put the bedding on the bed without a plastic encasing around your mattress and pillow?
Encasing will help reduce exposure to mattress emissions and protect against small allergen particles including dust mite and animal allergens. However, the plastic itself will outgass chemicals, and natural cotton barrier cloth is much preferable.

4. Do you have a plastic encasing around your mattress?
Note that the plastic itself will outgass chemicals, and natural cotton barrier cloth encasing is much preferable.

5. Do you put the bedding on the bed without a cotton barrier cloth with a high thread count encasing your mattress and pillow?
Natural cotton barrier cloth is an excellent way to reduce exposure to mattress emissions and protect against small allergen particles including dust mite and animal allergens.

6. Do you have a pillow made out of synthetic ingredients such as polyurethane or polyester?
All the same issues that apply to mattresses apply to pillows. Organic wool or goose down pillows are the most preferable, assuming there are no allergies.

7. Does your mattress have a synthetic smell?
Most commercial mattresses do have a synthetic smell. Try to identify it; if you have a smell, note you are breathing this all night long and consider buying a cotton encasing or an organic mattress.

8. Does your pillow have a synthetic odor?
The solution is the same as for number seven, above.

9. Is your mattress made of polyurethane foam?
At least cover the mattress with cotton encasing; best yet, replace with an organic mattress.

10. Do you have a digital clock on the bedside table?
These will give off electromagnetic field within a number of feet and could reach to the bed. Move the clock at least six feet from the bed.

11. Do you have a halogen lamp near the bed?
The transformer will give off a strong swath of electromagnetic fields. I’d suggest moving the halogen out of the bedroom, or far from the bed.

12. Is the bed’s frame treated with paint or stain that has an odor?
You will breath this all night. Try to speed the drying time by using a dehumidifier, or seal any toxic-type smelling stain with a sealant.

13. Is the bed’s frame made of particle board?
You will benefit if you seal this in because of formaldehyde emissions. Contact N.E.E.D.S.

14. Are the sheets made of polyester?
Synthetic materials don’t breath the way natural fibers do, and they can offgas chemicals since they are made of petroleum. Use natural, preferably organic fibers instead. For “green on a budget,” check out Target and other everyday stores; we’ve even found bamboo sheets there, as well as 100 percent natural.

15. Are your blankets and comforters made of synthetic materials?
Same answer as for number 14, above.

Read The Green Guide Institute’s Product Report on blankets and comforters here.

16. Do you sleep with an electric blanket that is or is not turned on?
Either way, you’ll be picking up electromagnetic fields, especially if it is turned. on.

17. Do you sleep on a waterbed?
You will be sleeping under a canopy of electromagnetic fields.

18. Besides a clock and lamp, do you have other appliances plugged in near your bed, such as a television or computer?
Move them about 6 feet away from the bed or more, to reduce and eliminate electromagnetic fields.

Read more: Home, Health & Safety, Household Hints

By Annie B. Bond

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

24 comments

+ add your own
8:35AM PDT on May 4, 2013

Thanks.

2:25AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Great post. Thanks.

4:33PM PST on Feb 25, 2012

I have a Beautyrest pillow top kingsize matress, semi orthopedic and sleep very weill thank you. i do however have a barrier cloth aka all cotton mattress cover that gets washed every week along with the all cotton sheets.. polyester are scratchy..i also have removable pillow covers that get washed regularly as well..my husband likes feather pillows they give me allergies.. never heard of horsehair and felt mattress... here in venezuela they use coconut fiber alot...

11:51PM PST on Feb 23, 2012

interesting, wonder how air beds are?,, thank you

12:37PM PDT on Aug 10, 2010

My mattress is horsehair and felt, covered with cotton ticking. It doesn't emit much of anything except little decorative cotton tufts that the cats like to play with. I'm not sure how old it is, but my mother thinks I may have been conceived on it, and I am now 64 years old. My back does fine on it. My bed is maple, WWII army issue. It doesn't emit anything either.

12:51PM PDT on Jul 29, 2010

Interesting!

6:01PM PDT on Sep 30, 2009

THE BEST MATTRESS PROTECTION AVAILABLE ON THE MARKET TODAY IS FINALLY HERE:

WWW.ULTIMATEBEDDING.CA

12:48PM PST on Feb 7, 2009

Dave L. you can have your cake and eat it to

check essentiadirect.com

not firm like standard latex

9:58PM PST on Jan 25, 2008

Hey you made me do all that math and keep track and then just said if I had a "yes" I had a problem ... are you trying to keep my mind working, lol? btw, I got minus 11. I believe in natural materials, but organics are so pricey I'm having to save up. Thanks for the tips, even tho they came with mind exercises!

8:42PM PST on Nov 12, 2007

Having a non-toxic mattress is important, I agree. But nobody thinks about the bed they are sleeping in...
Well, that is where we come in ;-)
www.ecofurniture.ca gives you the least off gassing furniture on the market!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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