Choosing an organic (chemical-free) crib mattress

Naturepedic Organic Cotton Crib Mattress

At the risk of sounding all hippy/crunchy…we finally found a chemical-free crib mattress. Our winner was the Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Classic Dual Firmness Crib Mattress. It only took blood, sweat and tears (and cost almost as much as the crib), but let me start at the beginning.

I‘m pretty crunchy when it comes to keeping chemicals out of our home, from our food to our cleaning supplies, to my beauty products. But long before getting pregnant, I was shocked to read about the toxicity of conventional mattresses over on my favorite blog, Young House Love. I’d never given much thought to my mattress, you know? So I knew early-on that we’d seek alternative mattress options for our baby when the time came.

Finding that mattress was a production which is why it languished on my to do list until I was 32-weeks along in my pregnancy! A cursory search for “organic crib mattress” quickly demonstrated that there is no regulation or certification for “organic mattresses” in the mattress world right now, so we’d need to do some sleuthing to make an informed decision. At the time of this writing, only consumers in California benefit from regulation requiring notification about flame retardants.

So what did I learn?

I quickly learned that most crib mattresses are made of polyurethane foam which is derived from petroleum and is highly flammable. Often it contains various chemical additives, including formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and other toxic chemicals.

Potential health effects of exposure to these chemicals include “cardiac arrhythmias, breathlessness, chest discomfort, irritation of mucous membranes, headache, coughing, asthma-like allergic reaction, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, and reduced pulmonary function” (source). Horrifying, right? Although not frequently mentioned, “certified foams” free of many of these chemicals do exist and are gaining popularity as more manufacturers wise-up to consumer’s health concerns, but you have to be diligent and educate yourself on CentiPur-US certification.

In addition to the contents of the mattress, I needed to watch out for the flame retardants required by law.  The four most commonly used chemicals in flame retardation include Firemaster 550, TCPP, TDCPP (chlorinated Tris) and Butylated Triphenyl Phosphate; each with its own host of health hazards you can read about here.

After a LOT of study, it became clear that I wasn’t looking for an “organic crib mattress” but a chemical-free one and that the criteria for that was entirely up to me. So I pulled together a prioritized wish list for our baby’s mattress based on what I’d learned.

My criteria included:

– No polyurethane foam
– No potentially harmful fire retardant chemicals (like brominated or chlorinated chemicals, PBDEs, antimony, modacrylic, PAN, or boric acid)
– No Vinyl/ PVC, phthalates, lead, or biocides
– No latex, coir, wool or other potential high allergy materials
– GREENGUARD certification
– Organic cotton (Ideally)

Then I looked at mattresses, polled friends, and read labels until I learned about the Naturepedic line. Check it out — it is exactly what I’d been looking for. Although I wasn’t specifically set on an organic crib mattress, it IS actually certified “organic,” which is a nice plus so I’m very confident with the decision to purchase this brand for our daughter.

If you’re interested in learning more, here are some of the resources I relied on:

Toxic Chemicals in Baby Crib Mattresses? (Healthy Child)
Toxic Dreams: Crib Mattresses May Release Risky Fumes (Environmental Working Group)
Why you should buy an organic crib mattress  (The Baby Bed)
Safe Mattress Guide (Gimme the Good Stuff)
Flame Retardants (Green Policy Guide)
Flame Retardants, not always a good idea  (Earth Talk)
Furniture firms shun flame retardants but some toxic couches still for sale (Chicago Tribune)
The 7 best crib mattresses (The Baby Bed)

Illustrating just how tricky navigating this mattress world is, the Sealy Soybean Foam-Core Crib Mattress mentioned at #4 on this last list was highly recommended by a friend who meticulously researched for allergens, but the misleading label still hid the fact that 73% of the mattress is made of Polyurethane foam and 27% cotton felt. How is this OK??! Luckily it is made with “certified foam” and has Certi-Pur certification, but I think this really demonstrates how complex mattress shopping has become when you’re concerned about chemicals and how diligent you need to be about educating yourself on options. It’s frustrating, but hopefully this is a jumping off point to help you get started.


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