by Emily Main
How did you sleep last night? Probably not all that well, if you’re stuck sleeping on a lumpy hotel mattress for two weeks.
Well, one would hope that the super-luxe Hay-Adams has non-lumpy mattresses, but nevertheless, there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep on your own mattress (in the Lincoln bedroom?) to get you ready to face the first 100 days. And unless the Bushes break with tradition and leave their 8-year-old mattresses behind, the first furniture purchase of the new administration and his family will be getting new ones.
And what better place to put forth some economic stimulus than the green mattress market. Very un-green conventional mattresses come with a host of problems, not least of which is that they’re made with petroleum-based materials like polyurethane foam. Like most things made from oil, mattresses are highly flammable, so manufacturers have to do something to keep them from going up in flames. For a while, mattresses were treated with flame-retardant chemicals called PBDEs until it was discovered that some types of PBDEs could interfere with thyroid hormones and hinder brain development in young children (not exactly something you want the President to have to deal with…). Nowadays, mattress manufacturers use a grab bag of both chemicals (the health effects of which aren’t fully known) and off-gassing barrier materials, changing their often-proprietary formulations based on supply.
Green mattress manufacturers stumbled upon the brilliant realization that, if you don’t use flammable materials in mattresses, you won’t have to use questionable materials to keep them from going up in flames. So they take materials like organic cotton and natural latex and wrap them in untreated wool, which is inherently fire resistant and meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards for resisting open flames. For all the president’s daughters, wool and latex have the added benefit of being resistant to dust-mites, which are highly allergenic and can factor in up to 80 percent of allergic reactions.
Natural mattresses may not come cheap, but considering the length of time you hold on to them (and the fact that you spend a third of your life with your face pressed up against one), they’re worthy investments. Ikea has even introduced a line that starts at about $500 for twins. They use natural latex, cotton grown under the auspices of a group called the Better Cotton Initiative and a flame-retardant chemical that meets strict EU safety regulations. For more ideas, check out the Green Guide‘s Mattress Buying Guide.