Chemicals in mattresses

Chemical flame retardants, formaldehyde, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) — those are some of the substances that can end up in your mattress. And Consumer Reports says they can be hazardous.

“The effects range from respiratory irritants, to possible hormone disruptors, to cancer,” says Urvashi Rangan, Executive Director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “The potential presence of these chemicals is an unnecessary risk.”

You can find mattresses sold with claims that they’re healthier or natural. But those terms are meaningless; they have no standards behind them and no required verification. Even a mattress labeled organic may contain only a portion of materials that are actually certified organic. A truly organic mattress should have about 95 percent certified organic fiber and be made without potentially harmful chemicals and materials.

To find mattresses that meet those qualifications, look for a label from the Global Organic Textile Standard, and for mattresses that contain latex, one from the Global Organic Latex Standard. But those mattresses can be expensive.

There is another label to look for, the Oeko-Tex Standard 100. It’s found on some less expensive mattresses. It doesn’t ensure that the fiber is produced organically, but it does guarantee that the mattress was tested to make sure it meets standards for harmful chemical emissions. It also means that the use of certain chemical flame retardants and allergenic dyes was banned.

Consumer Reports says you may want to consider a Casper mattress. It follows the Oeko-Tex Standard requirements and uses a safe fire retardant. It also earned high ratings for support, comfort, and durability in Consumer Reports’ mattress tests. The Casper queen costs $850.

With any mattress, Consumer Reports says be sure to air it out for at least 48 hours before using it to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars and trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to


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