What is an Organic Mattress?

Just like assertions about organic foods before governing bodies stepped in to clarify, claims about organic mattresses can be misleading and confusing. And, just like processed foods, there are several steps involved in the manufacturing of organic mattresses. How companies execute each step of the process can complement or detract from their organic claim.

Benefits of an organic mattress

The benefits of choosing a natural organic mattress are wide-ranging:

  • Hypo-allergenic is a particularly wise choice for those prone to respiratory issues, allergies, or more vulnerable populations like children and the elderly
  • Natural materials better regulate your body temperature, resulting in more restful sleep
  • Made of sustainable, biodegradable materials
  • Naturally flame-resistant
  • Durable, eliminating the possibility of harmful VOCs releasing over time

Organic starts with the raw materials

The raw materials for organic mattresses are commonly rubber, used to create latex, sheep’s wool, and cotton. In completely organic mattresses, these raw materials are grown or raised entirely without any pesticides or herbicides. Did you know “sheep dipping” is common in non-organic wool farms to control external parasites? Sheep commonly receive antibiotics to promote growth. Since both of these practices can pose health risks to humans and the environment, such practices prevent farmers from getting organic certification. Non-organic cotton uses a multitude of agrochemicals, including pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, while also severely degrading soil quality. Organic cotton farms eliminate the use of harmful chemicals while also using more ecologically sound, sustainable growing methods.

Processing Raw Materials

Raw materials made for organic mattresses are processed at textile mills that do not use harmful chemicals to assist in the processing. Non-organic processing plants often use potentially toxic chemicals to help refine raw materials into usable textiles.

Manufacturing

Organic mattresses are built from those finished materials. Facilities that complement the raw materials with all organic compounds to manufacture organic mattresses are wholly and genuinely organic. Non-organic mattresses use synthetic materials like latex to create foam, for instance. The combination of synthetic materials in non-organic mattresses has the potential to release VOCs while you sleep. Body heat can trigger the release of these potentially harmful gaseous chemicals, predominantly from the polyurethane used in mattresses and the chemicals in flame retardants and plastics.

Health Effects

According to the US EPA, harm from VOCs can include mild irritants like eye, nose, and throat soreness to more severe headaches and organ damage. Some VOCs have also been linked to increased cancer risk, including benzene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde.

How do you know if a mattress is really organic?

How do you know if a mattress is really organic

Several certifying agencies exist to ensure that materials and processes adhere to given standards. In the case of organic mattresses, there are three organizations to be aware of:

The Control Union. This global certification organization certifies materials of all kinds in the worldwide supply chain to ensure that the materials comply with accepted standards. In the organic mattress space, they ensure that rubber tree growing operations comply with both the USDA’s National Organic Program Standard and the Global Organic Latex Standard, known as GOLS.

Eco Institut. Based in Germany, this agency tests different materials for the presence of harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and more.

Oregon Tilth. This non-profit organization is the most recognized US organic certifier. They inspect both materials and manufacturing facilities across various standards, including the USDA National Organic Program and the Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS.

Organic Mattress Certifications

An organic mattress manufacturer may be adhering to standards but hasn’t invested in the certification. Still, as a consumer, the only way to verify that a mattress meets the organic standards that you expect is to look for certification from a reliable, independent, third-party authority.

By becoming familiar with these certifications before shopping for an organic mattress, you can use your knowledge to ensure that you’re getting a bed made of the organic materials you expect.

Below are a few of the most recognized organic mattress certifications. If the mattress you’re considering promotes a different credential, do your research to determine what it really means and whether it meets your personal standards.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

Many industry experts consider GOTS to be the most reliable standard for certifying a mattress material as organic. To receive a GOTS certification, a material has been inspected and passes several rigorous requirements all along the supply chain. Third-party agencies such as Oregon Tilth and the international Control Union certify materials to GOTS. You will find GOTS-certified organic wool and cotton labeling while shopping for an organic mattress.

Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)

Another organization, GOLS, is responsible for certifying that finished latex is organic. For a rubber tree farm to get a GOLS certification, they must adhere to specific organic growing and harvesting methods that include rubber serum processing into certified organic foam.

EPEA Cradle to Cradle Certification

The Cradle to Cradle certification is a more comprehensive program from Europe’s Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA). Its focus expands beyond organic to include mindful, socially conscious manufacturing that evaluates the product’s impact over its entire life cycle. Organic mattresses with a Cradle to Cradle Certification have proven to meet standards in five different, comprehensive sustainability categories: material health, utilization and repurposing, renewable energy, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Oeko Tex Standard

Another widespread testing and certification organization is Oeko Tex. Their specialty is rigorous testing of textiles for hazardous and toxic chemicals at all stages, including raw, intermediate, and finished products. Look for the Oeko Tex 100 standard certification on your organic mattress as proof of compliance.

GreenGuard

GreenGuard specializes in evaluating volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in mattresses. Finished mattresses are placed in vacuum chambers. Then GreenGuard uses sophisticated technologies to test air samples. GreenGuard offers two levels of certification. The first standard confirms that total VOCs, individual VOCs, and formaldehyde fall below the allowable limits. Supremely pure products, certified safe for the most vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly, receive the GreenGuard GOLD standard certification.

Organic Content Standard

A less rigorous certification, this standard uses the Content Claim Standard (CCS) as a guideline for determining compliance. To determine whether or not a specific material complies with the standard, the CCS gathers supply-chain information. As a result, the USDA allows the use of the term “organic” on mattresses even if only a portion of the components is certified organic.

Before shopping for an organic mattress, decide which certifications are most important to you, and look for those seals as you evaluate your choices. Here’s to a great, safe night of rest!

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