Child-friendly choices: there are some materials you'll want to look for and some you'll want to steer clear of, say Truly Ball and Sarah Easterling.

Author:Ball, Truly
Position:Q & A

Q: I want to create a healthier home for my child. What steps should I take?

A: The most important items with which your child comes into contact that you want to make sure are nontoxic are: their sleeping area, their dining items and their toys.

Most people spend over a third of their lives in bed, and in the first few years of life, even more time is spent tucked in. Therefore, one of the best things you can do for your child is to buy them an organic mattress. But, be careful when choosing your organic mattress from the many options, as there is a lot of misinformation out there. Simply adding organic cotton to a mattress that is conventionally manufactured doesn't make it an organic mattress, though some companies would like you to believe it does. Below is information on a few of the components that should alarm you if found in supposedly "organic" mattresses. This list is by no means exhaustive and does not address chemicals found in conventional mattresses.

Memory foam--a polyurethane- and petroleum-based foam made entirely of chemical and synthetic ingredients. It off-gases to the point that some manufacturers of mattresses that contain memory foam tell you to let their product air out for two weeks before sleeping on it.

Boric acid--a chemical that is poisonous if inhaled. Long-term exposure to boric acid is especially harmful. Although it is a pesticide, it's put in so-called "organic" mattresses as a flame retardant.

Silica--a substance that is an ingredient of some flame retardants, Silica is known to lead to silicosis (a respiratory disease), bronchitis and, rarely, cancer. These illnesses are caused by the inhalation of silica dust over a period of time.

Plastic--is a petroleum product that contains a number of chemicals, While manufacturers use it to make their mattresses waterproof, it isn't the only way of achieving moisture resistance.

So, what do you want in your organic mattress? Just three things: natural rubber (also called natural latex), organic wool and organic cotton. Nothing else.

Wool and natural latex can help prevent and reduce allergies, and both materials are resistant to mold, mildew and dust mites. Many people find that their allergies disappear altogether when they start sleeping on an organic mattress. Conversely, if a mattress only has loose organic fiber inside, it's a haven for dust mites and won't provide protection against mold and mildew.


If your child has an allergy to wool...

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