What Are Flame Retardants?
Flame or fire retardant refers to a layer of chemicals or natural materials that work by forming a protective layer on the outside of an object, keeping it from burning quickly. This layer of protection starts a chemical reaction that blocks fire ignition and in turn stops or slows down a fire by cooling down the ignited surface. Chemical flame retardants are commonly found in household products like mattresses, furniture, electronics, and home insulation. There is a lot of controversy over whether chemically processed flame retardant mattresses are safe or not. Luckily there are natural flame retardant options as well to help you avoid this issue completely. Check out the Posh+Lavish™ latex collection at your local Mattress Express location.
Why Are Flame Retardants in a Mattress?
Decades ago, the big tobacco industry was blamed for the rise in house fires started by smoldering cigarettes, matches and lighters so they began a massive misdirection campaign to shift the focus to fire-proofing the home environment instead. They proposed using chemical flame retardants to make furniture and fabrics less flammable, conveniently changing the subject from the risks of cigarettes.
In 1975, new regulations required furniture, particularly that containing polyurethane foam, to meet flammability standards with the ultimate goal of protecting consumers and their families. Before the products could be offered for sale in the United States and Canada, they had to pass an open flame test. During this test, the furniture needed to withstand a two-foot-wide open flame blowtorch for 70 seconds. Years later in 2007, it became legally required by the U.S.Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that all mattresses in the United States must pass tests for fire safety, including the same open flame test and a smoldering ignition test.
Unfortunately, there were huge flaws in these fire safety laws. While they made clear the fire safety standards that must be met, they did not set safety standards on how companies must meet these standards. Manufacturers started formulating their own chemical compounds to slow the spread of a fire that could easily be added to mattresses and other household items but the toxicity of these chemicals has turned out to affect both humans and the environment. Another reason this rule stirred up so much controversy is that this regulation did not require manufacturers to identify the flame retardant chemicals they used in their products.
If there is one part of our home that most of us would love to be safe from fires, it is our mattresses. Mattresses are where we spend one-third of our lives resting and recovering, so we want them to be as safe as they can be. These guidelines were issued to create safer products that can withstand fire for longer periods of time, so in the case of an incident with something like a candle or a cigarette, you have time to safely exit your home and/or extinguish the fire. Though the new regulation is intended to provide fire safety, it has produced a new health risk due to the use of the hazardous chemical composi
tion of most flame retardants.
What Are the Dangers of Using Chemical Fire Retardants?
Research suggests that these chemicals may be doing more harm than good when it comes to our health and that of the world in which we live. Most of the chemical flame retardants used today, and in the past, have never been evaluated for safety or environmental impact. Once the chemicals are produced, manufacturers have a vested financial interest in their continued use in spite of safety concerns. Plus, these synthetic chemicals are one of the cheapest ways to pass fire safety tests. The best way to avoid these chemicals is to buy a mattress that uses natural fire retardant fibers like Posh+Lavish™ latex collection from Mattress Express.
There are many different types of chemical flame retardants but there may be no better example of the damage that these toxic chemicals can cause than polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs. This class of chemical compounds was used as flame retardants until their manufacturing was banned in the United States in 1979.
PCBs can damage health in a multitude of ways, including in ways that we still do not fully understand today.
These compounds are easily dispersed in the environment, traveling far and wide and accumulating in certain species as they move up the food chain. They are known carcinogens, may cause liver damage, and can cause skin conditions like rashes and acne. Animal studies have found PCBs to impact the reproductive, immune, and endocrine systems. These effects may also occur in humans, but it still has not been proven. With over half of the PCBs ever produced released into the environment, their damage continues to this day.
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One of the major ones still used today is Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). These chemical flame retardants do not chemically bond to the items to which they were added but easily release particles into the air as dust. While the poisonous particles are not visible to us, they are transferred from household items by our hands to our mouths, inhaling them and ingesting them. Flame retardants are a major component of the product and continue to leach out for the life of the product.
There is continued evidence that flame retardants could potentially have dangerous effects to humans and animals. These harmful effects may include damage to the immune system, disruption to the endocrine and thyroid functions, reproductive toxicity, impaired neurological function, and cancer.
Avoid these chemicals if possible: polybrominated diphenyl ethers, boric acid, antimony trioxide, decabromodiphenyl oxide, melamine, and vinylidene chloride. The United States started banning toxic flame retardants in 2005. Because that’s still fairly recent, it’s worth being aware of what to look for and avoid.
What Natural Alternative Flame Retardants are Available?
The good news is although agrochemicals are the cheapest options for creating flame retardancy they, fortunately, are not the only ones. Newer practices today use natural materials and innovative designs that enable products to pass the test without toxic chemicals, ensuring a more healthful home and sleep environment. There are plenty of good options out there, just be sure to do your due diligence before buying your next mattress.
You just have to know what to look for. Many manufacturers use blends made of natural materials like organic wool, natural latex, and organic cotton mixed with manmade fibers including rayon and polyester.
These materials are natural flame retardants and are all safer options for your health and widely considered to be more eco-friendly.
Getting a natural mattress made of these materials can help keep you safe throughout the night and cut down on toxic chemicals in the air. Mattress Express’s Posh+Lavish™ latex collection uses all three of the natural options listed above.
As the mattress industry continues to evolve and becomes more sophisticated, one can only expect the future to bring even more options. If you look back to a decade ago, you see how far the industry has already come. Years ago, nearly everyone purchased mattresses saturated in toxic chemicals, but today consumers demand safe alternatives.
If you want to sleep soundly knowing that you are safe from these chemicals, all you need to do is a little homework and purchase a mattress from a company that values the long-term safety of their customers.
The Posh+Lavish™ latex collection uses organic cotton or wool. One of the best options is untreated organic wool, a completely natural and safe flame retardant. Because it can hold much of its weight in moisture, it takes more time to catch on fire than most materials used in mattresses. Additionally, its structure is such that there is very little oxygen within, which is needed for a fire to spread.
Rayon, a textile made from cellulose fiber bonded to silica, is another option. While it is not completely natural or environmentally friendly, it is free from dangerous chemicals such as those found in flame retardants.
If you want to stick with all-natural components, a natural latex mattress is your best option. Latex itself is a material that is naturally fire-resistant. Natural latex mattresses are made from the rubber tree.
The Posh+Lavish™ latex collection is constructed using only the finest, natural materials. The material used to create the mattress cover is Tencel-faced fabric. It is made up of wood pulp, and with the help of nanotechnology, it is amazingly supple, durable, and moisture absorbent. This moisture-wicking material helps regulate body temperature, keeping you warm during the colder months and cool on those hot summer nights. The support and comfort core is made from latex that is naturally infused and long-lasting, Oeko-Tex certified, and put together using non-toxic, certified water-based glue. Wool, a natural fire retardant, is used to surround all four sides of the mattress between two layers of all-natural, knitted cotton. Posh and Lavish mattresses are antimony and boric-acid-free.
Stop by your Mattress Express location of choice to experience this luxurious line for yourself or shop online.