By Greenhealth Staff on June 13, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 6.00.19 PMA company brings sound and safe sleep to the health care nursery and beyond. 

Barry Cik, an environmental engineer and hazardous materials specialist living in Ohio, began his quest for a better baby mattress when he went shopping for a mattress for his new grandchild. Upon reading the material’s label, which included polyurethane foam and a vinyl cover, he was not impressed. The mattresses were full of chemicals (such as phthalates, which have been proven to cause cancer in laboratory animals), and he did not want them near his grandchild. When he asked for alternatives, he was told there weren’t any, so he decided to create his own toxic-free baby mattress. Today, Naturepedic manufactures organic baby, child, and adult mattresses that offer a solution to chemical and safety issues, as well as quality and comfort concerns. The baby mattresses are distributed to more than 150 hospitals across the U.S.

Physicians, health professionals, public safety officials, environmental advocacy groups, and consumers have been concerned for years about the possible effects of chemicals on children. Many researchers suspect that toxic chemicals are playing a significant role in the dramatic increase in childhood disorders. While some chemicals widely used in baby mattresses for decades have recently been banned (certain phthalates) and/or voluntarily removed (PBDEs), Naturepedic believes there are other issues with traditional mattress materials.

Babies and toddlers spend 10 to 14 hours a day sleeping or playing on a crib mattress. And for the first few years of a child’s life, the mattress is the single most prominent object in the child’s environment. Practice Greenhealth spoke with Cik recently about Naturepedic’s mattresses designed with human and environmental health in mind.

What are the health concerns with traditional mattress materials?

Pediatric mattresses have four factors to keep in mind. The first is physical safety, such as proper firmness, edge support, nontoxic waterproofing, hygienic cleaning, snug fit, and weight (i.e., it’s easy to lift and change the sheets). The second is chemical safety—does the mattress have controversial chemicals associated with vinyl, phthalates, polyurethane foam, flame retardants, and PFC waterproofing? The third is allergenic safety—avoidance of natural rubber latex. The fourth is fire safety—is the mattress made of highly flammable materials?

What is an organic mattress?

The organic components—organic fabrics and fill—are free of any questionable chemicals, and the nonorganic components—the core support and waterproofing—meet the nontoxic standards of the Global Organic Textile Standard.

Why are organic mattresses important?

Organic mattresses are safer than traditional mattresses. Organic is the best way to provide safe materials. Getting the mattress certified as organic proves that the mattress is providing the safest materials.

What are terms you want to avoid when purchasing mattresses?

Watch out for claims without a recognized third-party certification and terms that have no enforceable meaning, such as “Environmentally Friendly” and “Natural.” These terms are considered green washing.

How many hospitals are purchasing Naturepedic mattresses?

The Naturepedic hospital program began through a grant to Healthy Child Healthy World, which paid for mattresses for more than 100 hospitals. The grant has expired, and hospitals are now ordering [new or replacement units] through conventional channels.

How do organic mattresses stand up to safety codes?

Organic mattresses meet, and actually substantially exceed, all safety codes.