Monday, July 19, 2010

Environmental Ed 101 - All About VOC’s

Where do most American’s come in contact with toxins? The answer may surprise you. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the inside of your home is host to a bevy of toxins and pesticides brought in by both the products we buy and the things we do. For example, just walking in from an outdoor area treated with chemical pesticides and re-tracking them in your home contaminates your living space. A simple solution? Remove shoes before entering your home. Just like that, there are simple and economical solutions to avoiding or reducing toxic exposure for your family.

While there are a multitude of environmental toxins, some expose more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than others. Being conscious about the products containing higher VOC’s is a start to eliminating the toxic chemicals that could make your family sick.

First, a crash course in environmental toxins
The air we breathe day in and day out are saturated with volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s as they are commonly referred to.

VOC’s are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure and easily form vapors at normal temperatures and pressures. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products. Emission sources include perfumes, printing inks, mothballs, gasoline, cleaning supplies, pesticides, newspaper, carpets and other building materials, pressed-wood furniture, air fresheners, solvents, glues and adhesives, sealants, cosmetics, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, tobacco smoke, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. All of these products can release VOC’s while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

In the case of mattresses, VOC’s are emitted from the fibers, foams, adhesives, fire retardants, and other additives that are used in mattress construction. People are exposed to these gases intimately and continuously throughout the night as they are sleeping. This exposure subjects people to a variety of unanticipated health risks and reactions, especially in those who are particularly sensitive to chemical emissions. Most VOC’s have no discernable odor, color, or smell. So just because you do not smell it, it does not mean that your air is safe.

How can I reduce toxins in my home?
Becoming an informed consumer is the first defense in eliminating or reducing your contact with dangerous VOC’s. While it is impossible to completely reduce exposure to toxins in our environment, you can greatly reduce the amounts of chemicals in your home by using natural cleaning supplies, organic clothing, bedding, pillows, and mattresses, and reducing or eliminating VOC-containing materials in your home.

Since the average person spends a third of their life sleeping the best place to start is with an organic mattress made of all organic and natural materials and no fire retardant toxic chemicals. Also, consider buying carpets made of natural fiber like jute or wool. Or, go with bare floors, which is better for allergies (just make sure that the varnish or glue contains low or no VOC’s).
Re-evaluate what CLEAN really smells like. If you identify the smell of chlorine bleach as a clean smell, think again. The Environmental Defense Fund has stated that the trihalomethanes (THMs) found when chlorine is mixed with water is highly carcinogenic and responsible for the majority of human cancers in the United States. Switch to organic or natural cleaning products and laundry detergents. Seek out paints with no VOC’s. Eliminate artificial fragrances altogether. These simple changes will have a positive effect on your indoor air quality.

Becoming an informed consumer and making eco-friendly and healthy choices for our family and your home is not difficult with the amount of materials on the Internet. Other resources such as books at your local library, trade magazines, and local shops dedicated to eco-friendly and healthy living are all great sources to research information.

Your resource for healthy living
At Your Organic Bedroom, we do not believe toxins belong in the products you purchase. We only carry products from manufacturers dedicated to full disclosure in their product lists, and who get their materials from companies who do the same. We share your goal in protecting the health of your family and the environment.

* Toxic Bedrooms: Your Guide to a Safe Night's Sleep by Walter Bader was a resource for this article.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why Buy An Organic Mattress?

Not all organic mattresses are created equal. Many manufacturers label themselves as eco-friendly, cruelty-free, pure, environmental, or natural to attract consumers interested in protecting their health and the environment.

Sadly, some manufacturers are misleading and even lying to consumers by adding false labels that sound legitimate but do not hold any weight in the context of health or environmental standards. Not only do some companies, which claim to be eco-friendly, use toxins in their products, but they hide the toxic ingredients as well. Millions of dollars are spent each year by lobbyists intent on hiding the truth and fighting against stricter labeling laws, which would expose the toxic ingredients to consumers.

A mattress is an investment, both in cost and health, so prepare yourself by understanding true third party tested labels and other facts before your next mattress purchase. There is no reason to have toxic chemicals lurking in your mattress!

Mattress Facts 101 - Conventional vs. Organic

Conventional Mattresses
A conventional (non-organic) mattresses may be either an innerspring or solid core with no springs. These mattresses are made with materials such as petroleum based synthetic latex, conventional cotton, and polyester. These materials consist of toxins that are hazardous to your health and the health of your family and the environment. Think about one of the major components of a conventional mattress: cotton.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin) are KNOWN cancer-causing chemicals. All nine are classified by the U.S. EPA as Category I and II— the most dangerous chemicals. Memory Foam alone is known to emit 61 VOC (volatile organic compounds). These petroleum based synthetic foam and memory foam, which have been popular in recent years for their comfort, are highly flammable. This synthetic material known as SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) is often referred to by fire marshals as ‘solid gasoline.’ To make these already flammable materials meet the flammability standards, they must then be doused in toxic chemicals such as boric acid or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Consumer complaints of headaches, joint pain, irritated eyes, noses, and throats, have been linked by health professionals to these irritant chemicals.

Organic Mattresses
Organic mattresses offer a variety of comfort and price levels and are constructed the same as conventional mattresses, such as innerspring or non-innerspring, but the materials they are comprised of are drastically different. Organic mattresses consist of organically certified cotton, natural rubber (sometimes called natural latex), and natural wool. One other consideration when choosing between the organic materials is allergy issues. Natural rubber and wool are dust-mite, mold, and mildew resistant. Those who suffer from mold, mildew, or dust mites may find their allergies greatly alleviated by choosing materials such as natural rubber or wool.

One of the most valued features of a truly organic mattress is that no fire retardant chemicals are used. Since wool is a natural flame retardant, wool is used in the top layer of organic mattresses and passes all flammability standards naturally.

Ultimately organic mattresses are not just for allergy sufferers but part of a healthy lifestyle along with eating well and exercise. It is about the quality of indoor air. It is about the life cycle of a product from cultivation to production to finished product. All stages must be considered as much as possible as none of us are exclusively protected from the toxins in the environment from all three stages.

Trust Your Supplier
When you purchase a true organic mattress, you are expecting that the manufacturer is truthfully disclosing the materials of the mattress and their origins. Always check for third party certification. Often manufacturers will use logos that they invent to mislead the public, or use certified logos that have nothing to do with the product they sell.

At Your Organic Bedroom, we do not believe toxins belong in the products you purchase. We only carry products from manufacturers dedicated to full disclosure in their product lists, and who get their materials from companies who do the same. We share your goal in protecting the health of your family and the environment.