It's not just dust and dust mites we have to watch out for anymore. Arthritis and a host of agonizing aches and allergy symptoms can be caused by toxins in mattress materials, including headaches and breathing issues, skin rashes, arthritis, muscle aches and pains, general malaise, and fatigue. These can be the result of poisoning yourself by inhaling the outgassing of toxic chemicals now being sprayed on mattresses.

Chemicals Are Required By Law

Your bed is the last place you would expect to find such a mixture of harsh chemicals, but consumers now have to make hard choices to keep themselves safe after the passage of new mattress "safety" regulations. Yet the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lists chemicals such as boric acid, formaldehyde, antimony trioxide, decabromodiphenyl oxide, vinylidiene chloride, zinc borate, and melamine as flame retardants being required by the July 2007 law. Unlisted substances also have other sinister side effects.

Regulations were upgraded in 2008 to include just about any newly manufactured or imported upholstered items, from furniture to throw pillows. This guarantees that human and pet inhabitants living in proximity to these items can be forced to breathe in a chemical soup that might take years to dissipate to safe levels, and can cause sickness and body pain, even for your pets.

Children's mattresses are claimed to be safer because they have a thin plastic coating over them, but independent tests show that chemicals manage to escape anyway. If either you or your children have allergies or notice strange symptoms shortly after buying new mattresses, quilts, comforters, or throw pillows, suspect chemicals embedded in them.

What are the Dangers?

Knowledge is power. With everyone having allergies and compromised immune systems, it's important to know the dangers that new mattresses present; they are both made from chemical components, as well as treated with chemical fire retardants that you breathe as you sleep.

As little as one ppm (part per million) polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), used in mattresses until Jan 2005, can cause long-term behavioral alterations in animal studies. PBDEs are now banned in the U.S., but they are actually safer than their more toxic replacements, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs).

What To Do and Who To Contact

If you have problems, you can contact the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA). They work with the CPSC to propose appropriate regulations for chemical treatments and oppose the use of amounts of chemicals thought to be unsafe. But since many of the chemicals in use have not been tested for safety, safe amounts are not known and current usage can be harmful even to healthy humans, children, pregnant women, and pets.

Memory Foam is especially heavily treated with flame retardants. With fewer people smoking, but everyone having to sleep on a mattress, these laws put everyone at risk of breathing chemical outgassing all night to protect the few people who might be at risk of fires. You can contact your legislators to try to resolve this inequity.

Consumer Testing Facilities

A list of laboratories who do product safety testing can be contacted if you suspect your mattress to be your allergy problem. They test products for dangerous outgassing by blowing air over it onto a cage of test mice. Most often the animals are paralyzed in hours, and later die.

Alternative Safety Options

You can buy used mattresses for very little and have them steam cleaned. You can buy older 'new' mattresses (manufactured before July 1, 2007) from overstock locations, or even from Salvation Army or other Thrift Stores which may receive them as donations. (If not sealed, verify they haven't been sprayed or treated.) If they are still sealed in manufacturer's packaging, buying one might be cheaper and safer than subjecting a family member with a weak immune system or other allergies to a new sprayed mattress.