We are beyond the stage where we think that green and organic choices are fashionable. We’ve learned that the choices we make in terms of the products we use every day can have a detrimental impact on our health over time. The green movement has evolved from something conceptual and political to a new era of consumer awareness for products, as well as the manufacturing processes employed to create the items we use every day.
Short or Long Term Use?
The average crib mattress is not made with a high standard of quality and it won’t win any awards for engineering. The majority of manufacturers design an infant crib mattress to be a short-term use product. Your child is only going use it for a short period of time before you will likely discard it and migrate them to an adult size or adolescent bed.
There is a problem with that thinking however. Do you know any families that have more than one child? Typically a growing family will keep their mattress for future children, and that can involve storing the crib and mattress for a number of years. Sometimes the crib is shared with other family and friends, so the process is flawed. The materials used in short-term products are not meant for long term use, and that’s where understanding the impact of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) is important. The longer you use these products, the more the toxic materials break down over time creating a health risk to your family.
Hazards and Risks
For the first three months an infant will sleep approximately 15 hours per day according to KidsHealth.org . During that time your baby will be breathing in any noxious vapors that are emitted from elements within the nursery, including interior wall paint, wood finish and glue and other manufacturing materials contained in bedding and the mattress.
Mattresses for both children and adults are frequently manufactured with petroleum based materials to increase the resilience of the mattress for repeat use. As petroleum materials are highly flammable, it becomes necessary for the manufacturer to also treat the fabric with a flame retardant chemical which is highly toxic. Plastic Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) waterproof mattress covers are often used in cribs as well, which emit harmful phthalates that can alter natural testosterone levels causing male reproductive abnormalities.
The most popular and frequently used flame retardant material for consumer goods is polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) which have been banned in Europe and in many areas of the United States. Unfortunately manufacturers are able to hide the chemicals used to an extent citing “trade secrets” and the precise composition of their flame retardant fabric treatment, which allows these toxins to go undetected by Consumers who try to make an informed purchase. Newer chemicals that are not yet banned (but similar in terms of toxicity) include chlorinated-TRIS, a known carcinogen.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are so easily absorbed into the body, traces have been found in human breast milk and studies have concluded that similar toxins interfere with thyroid and other hormonal development in children. If it is absorbed that easily, what kind of hazard does that present to your infant who is laying on the mattress for up to 15 hours per day?
The Better Choice
Considering the longevity and average use and potential health risk it is critical to investigate not only the finished product but also how the product is made in order to evaluate its potential for toxicity. With the prevalence of Cancer on the rise around the world, more consumers and parents are investing the time and making better choices to protect the health of their family.
Alternatives for mattresses include natural products such as wool or 100% organic (unbleached) cotton products. Wood finishes on cribs and other furnishings in the bedroom should be VOC free and there are many options available on the market for organic interior paint. Avoid purchasing a used mattress or borrowing one if you are not sure how old the material is or how it was manufactured. Make the investment to purchase products that will help give your child a healthy start in life instead with organic bedding and furnishings.
Stefanie Gomez is associated with Essentia. She understands the importance about green/Healthy living hence she generally blogs about eco-friendly lifestyle, health/wellness, healthy and sustainable living options.