This weekend, I am going to pick up a new mattress for my little girl. As you might recall, we've been co-sleeping in a family bed for the past two years (three - if you count the months she was in my belly!) I have to admit - I've been dreading this day very much. This purchase is a BIG one, as the mattress we select can have implications on her health for years to come. As I've been researching different mattresses and brands, I've picked up some useful information along the way that I believe is invaluable to any parent on a mattress hunt. Let's take a look at the health and environmental concerns that stem from conventional mattresses:
Conventional mattresses are composed of a toxic variety of chemicals. Polyvinyl chloride (you might recognize this substance as PVC) is a highly toxic plastic and makes up the surface cover of most baby mattresses. Not only is the PVC component of the surface material unsafe, but the covers also include phthalates (which are known to cause cancer, asthma, and endocrine disruption!) In fact, in May 2010, U.S. and Swiss researchers published a study that found that children that lived in homes with vinyl flooring - which emits phthalates - were more likely to have autism! Yet we let our children sleep on these toxic mattresses?!
The toxicity of just the surface of these conventional mattresses doesn't stop there, unfortunately. Mattresses are treated with chemicals that are fire-retardant and also very dangerous for a child's delicate body. Just what are these chemicals? Antimony, arsenic, and phosphorous, to name a few. Since most people are aware of the toxicity of arsenic and phosphorous, let's focus on one fire-retardant chemical contained in conventional mattresses that I honestly had never even heard of prior to doing this mattress research: Antimony.
Antimony is highly toxic, and produces very negative effects on the child's body. Depression, headaches, dizziness, and dermatitis are just a few symptoms that exposure to this chemical produces. As a precaution, I will avoid any and all mattresses that contain this fire-retardant chemical. Unfortunately, antimony is not just found in mattresses. It can also be found in children's clothing and toys. When in doubt, always choose organic!
Now, if you can get past all of the chemicals contained in just the surface of a conventional child's mattress and are still reading, then wonderful! Here's some information about what's inside of the mattress:
Polyurethane foam. This foam is highly combustible (flammable) and must be treated with even more chemicals to make it less flammable. Talk about a double whammy! The foam contains many chemicals, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and petroleum, not to mention the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that offgas and can cause cancer and damage to the body's central nervous system.
Would you like some cancer with your beauty sleep? No? Fortunately, there are many resources for finding the perfect mattress for your little ones. The organic mattresses can go from $200-$500 for baby/child, but is money well spent.
I'm pretty sure we're going with the Naturepedic No-Compromise Organic Cotton Seamless style. I'll let you all know next week once we've made the decision. Also, I plan on keeping you all updated on the techniques that work/fail for sleep transitioning, in case you're working up the courage to move baby out of your own bed and into his/her own.
What are your thoughts about conventional mattresses? Do you think that they are really worth the extra money? I've seen conventional ones go from $80, and to compare that with a $200 model seems like a big jump. If you've used an organic mattress, what has been your experience?
I am not a health professional, scientist or governmental employee - I am simply a concerned parent. Any advice or information shared in this post and on this site should not be considered comprehensive, nor a replacement for doing your own research or speaking with a health professional.