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I need to get a 5 inch trundle mattress for my son's trundle, but these sizes all seem to be 100% foam. I'm just concerned about putting that much foam in his room. I know so little, but it seems to me from what little I've seen that there's less of the modern foam stuff in the coil mattresses. Wondering if anyone can provide or point me to some useful information about certain materials being more dangerous for breathing fumes than others. Thanks!!

asked Dec 14 '11
Michelle H's gravatar image
Michelle H from Chevy Chase, MD
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Jan 21 '13

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GoodBed Help ♦♦

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Hello Michelle,

Chemical off-gassing is a great concern among many mattress shoppers today. We believe it's best to keep the ingredients simple and pure. While it's hard to find concrete studies linking health issues to the myriad chemicals contained in most conventional mattresses, choosing a natural or organic alternative just makes the most sense - especially for your child's developing systems. An organic mattress using steel springs or natural latex as a core, and covered in organic cotton and quilted with all natural wool is the simplest solution. Mattresses using organic ingredients also must pass the open flame tests, but most do so with the use of all natural or organic wool as a quilt back or a silica (sand-derived) coated batting.

A word about Allergies Wool does not come in contact with the sleeper since it is quilted behind the organic cotton, so allergies are of minimal concern. Latex allergies occur from the proteins that exist in naturally in liquid latex, but these are washed out in the latex foam manufacturing process. Latex allergies persist for people using "dipped" non-porous latex products like gloves and balloons, not foamed products like pillows and mattresses. Natural materials DO NOT in fact provide a breeding ground for dust mites with the exception of a cotton futon or cotton only mattress. An all cotton mattress is a bad idea, because cotton absorbs and retains moisture lending itself to mold and mildew. However, most cotton mattresses have a moisture wicking barrier such as wool, which resists dust mites as it does not retain moisture. Latex is also naturally dust mite resistant and does not provide a conducive breeding ground. Synthetic foams and polyester batting however is like sleeping on a plastic surface and hold moisture on the surface. Since the pores open up when a person sleeps and secrete toxins, a moisture wicking material is best. Many mainstream mattresses are moving in the direction of using synthetic moisture wicking fabrics, which is certainly a step in the right direction.

A word about Synthetic Foams Polyurethane foams whether they are visco (memory foam) or high density foam are highly flammable because they are made using oil. These mattresses require more fire retardant chemicals to pass the open flame test. There are thousands of complaints filed online by customers who experience stuffiness, rashes, red and puffy eyes, upper respiratory issues, etc., which are attributed to their mattresses and bedding from the mainstream product lines. While these complaints may only be anecdotal evidence, why gamble with your child's health? The body detoxes and rejuvenates during sleep, why bombard it with more chemicals during this time? It is too often that we find out a product is potentially dangerous after years of being on the open market. We cannot rely solely on the manufacturers to keep us informed about potential dangers as we have seen with cigaretts, certain over the counter medications, and even children's toys. Therefore, I recommend you follow your instincts and keep the ingredients simple. Organic otton, natural or organic untreated wool, natural latex, and steel have all been used for centuries to no ill effect. Good Luck & Happy Holidays!

The Sleep Diva

answered Dec 21 '11
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Angela Owen ♦
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Wow - super helpful information. Thank you all! Allergy info is extremely helpful too.

(Dec 22 '11) Michelle H Michelle H's gravatar image

Any innerspring mattress will always have less off-gassing than a foam mattress. The nice thing about steel is that it doesn't off-gas. So, start by making a decision to buy an innerspring mattress. Then, the next step is to look at the filling surrounding the innerspring, the surface fabric, and the flame barrier. For filling, cotton is better than foam and organic cotton is best. Latex, anoter alternative(and coir, which is shredded coconut husks mixed with latex)comes with latex allergy concerns. Nothing beats organic cotton for both filling and surface fabric. For flame barrier, hydrated silica based barriers are better than others. Chlorinated and brominated fire retardants are a concern. Wool flame barriers are also good (unless there is an allergy concern with the wool and/or a preference not to use animal components). Also, bear in mind that if the bulk of the inside of the mattress is a steel innerspring, then less flame protection is needed to begin with.

answered Dec 19 '11
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Barry Cik ♦
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Hi Michelle, There's no way to protect your child against every eventuality. All synthetic materials use chemicals to manufacture. And the problem with natural materials is, they provide a breeding ground for dust mites. The problem I see most, is with memory foam. There are lots of reports of respiratory problems developing. The most common foam is polyurethane...the same material used as carpet and upholstery padding. The only real problem with poly foam is if it isn't cured properly when made...otherwise, it's generally safe, unless your child has an allergy to it. But since it's so commonly use in most of our homes, it's likely that any allergy to it would have shown up by now.

answered Dec 16 '11
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Peter Cancelli ♦
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FR gets the bulk of the press these days and it is the largest issue right now. However there are a lot more chemicals than just that. IN addition a lot of the cotton, poly... could have been grown and produced who knows where and with who know what kind of chemicals to grow it and process it. I am a strong believer especially in Kids mattresses go organic..... Barry's company naturepedic makes a great product at a very resonable price but there are a lot of other's out there with good healthy products.

answered Jan 12 '13
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Joey Ashley ♦
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Be very wary of toxins..your instincts are right. All petrochemically-based foam has some toxicity. The most important thing to know is what's in the flame retardant. If your retailer can't or won't tell you specifically what's in the flame retardant, find one who will. Conscious retailers have researched what is good and bad as far as materials used. Unfortunately, since the flame retardant represents less than 1% of the total material used in mattresses, the manufacturers don't have to reveal what is used. Visil, or wood pulp and sand is the cleanest, unless you can go organic. For dust mites, just add a washable, non-treated mattress protector and vacuum the bed several times a year.

answered Dec 17 '11
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Karen Woods ♦
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Thank you, Peter and Karen! Michelle

(Dec 17 '11) Michelle H Michelle H's gravatar image

Karen is correct about the flame retardants. Since 2007, the mattress covers are required to be flame retardant. Some manufacturers have taken to treating their fabrics with boric acid...the same chemical used to kill roaches. Others, like Sealy/Stearns & Foster, Simmons, Therapedic/Eclipse and others, use a chemical free backing to their important piece of information to know about any brand you're considering.

(Dec 17 '11) Peter Cancelli ♦ Peter Cancelli's gravatar image

Since when is polyurethane foam chemical free?

(Feb 21 '12) Joyce Walker... ♦ Joyce Walker Robertson's gravatar image

Extremely helpful. Thank you!

(Feb 21 '12) Michelle H Michelle H's gravatar image


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