From the October/November 2008 Issue:

Eco-friendly Mattresses

  • Writer: Lisa Rackley

If you suffer from severe allergies or asthma, your bed may be causing agony. To help you find a healthier option, here are some useful tips.

Article Photo
enlarge | The core of the Magniflex Duoform mattress is made with water-based polyurethane foam and memory foam (visco-elastic). Coverings are made from natural fibers such as aloe, green tea, merino wool, corn, silk, cashmere, and bamboo. The queen size (shown) is $1,599. For a source,
Mattresses come in four types: innerspring, foam, water, and air. Innerspring mattresses are the most widely used, though foam mattresses are increasingly popular. Both types are now available with eco-friendly materials and more come on the market every day, so do your research before you buy.

Latex-Core Mattresses
Natural latex is derived from tree sap, a sustainable source. A natural latex-core mattress is durable and flexible so it contours to your body. Most importantly, natural latex allows air to flow through it, averting moisture buildup and making it antimicrobial and resistant to dust mites. Some mattresses are made of synthetic latex, which is less expensive, though some people are allergic to it.

Article Photo
enlarge | Royal-Pedic mattresses feature a core built with petrochemical-free latex perforated for seven zones of firmness as well as lamb’s wool and cotton. Conventional cores and coverings can be custom-ordered organic. The foundation is a conventional box spring system. The queen size is $3,745 ($4,797 with box spring). For a source,
Polyurethane Mattresses
Polyurethane foam mattresses are made with a petroleum product designed to imitate latex. Because it’s like a sponge, polyurethane foam traps dust, moisture, old skin, and pollen. Theses mattresses are easier to clean and transport than latex versions because they weigh less, but they last only about one-fourth as long and can be highly flammable — even though by law they are supposed to be treated with fire-retardant chemicals. The anti-flammable chemical used most often is PentaBDE, which has been reported to cause liver damage and other health problems and is now banned in California and throughout Europe. PentaBDE doesn’t bind itself to the foam, which means particles can leach into the air and be inhaled. Some companies now offer mattresses made of foam and water-based polyurethane glues to avoid the outgas of harmful solvents. Meanwhile, the government and manufacturers are working to develop safer fire-retardant chemicals.

Cotton and Wool Mattresses
Innerspring mattresses are covered with padding, often made of cotton or wool. Cotton mattresses tend to be very firm, but they can be made with cotton-polyester blends to increase flexibility. Avoid cotton mattresses with synthetic dyes. Even if the cotton is organic, make sure it was conventionally grown and untreated. Wool, like latex, guards against the mattress absorbing dust, moisture, and other unhealthy elements. It’s also naturally fire-retardant. - DNJ


Sources: The Green Guide at, The Better Sleep Council at, and The Sleep Products Safety Council at