As parents, should we be concerned when we lay our baby/child into their cribs and/or beds? They're just there to rest and sleep, right. We understand this quality time is for their restoration, health, and growth. The last thing we want to find out is the air they will be breathing and the bedding and mattress they are sleeping on might be harmful to them.
The respiratory rate (breath in and out) of an adult is 15-20 times/min. When we look at pediatric respiratory rates, they are as follows; a preschooler (3-6 years) breathes 22-34 times/min, a toddler (1-3 years) breathes 24-40 times/min, and an infant (birth-1 year) breathes 30-60 times/min. Simply stated, a toddler, while resting or sleeping in their bed will breathe in and out, 15,360 times a day, just during the time they are in bed! This figure would be even higher for an infant. As parents, what our children breathe is of great importance to us.
In 2006, regarding fire regulations and fire retardants, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued and updated their rules for mattress manufacturing. This was the first update since the creation of the Rules in the 1970s. The CPSC Rules (16 CFR Part 1633) states that mattresses must be fire retardant. Mind you, this is a good thing, in and of itself, problem is, that in the manufacturing process, chemicals are commonly used to accomplish this purpose. In doing so, a potential health hazard for our children is created. This article deals with the problems chemicals pose and offers a better and more natural bedding solution.
Health Problem with Chemical Usage in Bedding
Although these flame retardants pose great risks to human health, there are no current regulations in place requiring a manufacturer to inform the consumer about the flame retardants they use. Due to patents and such, the majority of bed manufacturers will not disclose the chemicals used in their fire retardant process, for fear of divulging their proprietary secrets and rights. As consumers, we have the right to not buy a mattress if full disclosure of its contents has not been given. As a parent, it is your right to know about everything your baby/child is breathing when they are resting or sleeping.
While it is generally accepted that fire retardant rules and regulations are good intentioned, it is parents who are ultimately responsible for the cumulative effects from any and all chemicals that might reach our children. As a consumer of children's goods, everywhere you turn, "the buck gets passed to you". This comes in the form of claims stating; "insufficient data to evaluate this product", or "at this level and at this exposure, this .... poses no immediate health threat to human life". As parents, the buck stops with us, as we are the first and last lines of defense. As parents, we are responsible for the cumulative effect of everything in the lives of our children.
We are told, over and over again, that exposure to, contact with, or breathing small amounts of various chemicals pose no imminent health risks. But, as parents, we are keenly aware that it is the cumulative effect we are really concerned about, not the single exposure or contact with questionable chemicals or agents.
The Federal Registry publication of the Final Rules (16 CFR Part 1633), reads as follows; "The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) & the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will continue to evaluate the potential effects of fire retardant treatments to ensure they do not present a hazard to consumers, workers, or the environment." What we have here is a situation where the long term effects of the chemicals used in fire retardants are not fully known. At best, the rules/regulations concerning bedding are an ongoing work in progress. Only time will tell what the eventual outcome will be. As consumers, we need to be aware of all that is in our children's environment and world.
The Natural Solution: Wool Bedding
One of the very sound things a parent or consumer can do would be to completely bypass the entire issue of fire retardant chemicals by purchasing a natural bedding mattress with thick outer layers of wool. By its very nature, wool is fire retardant. A mattress wrapped in wool satisfactorily passes every fire test available and this is accomplished without the use of chemicals. By meeting the Federal CPSC Rules (16 CFR Part 1633); a mattress wrapped in wool complies with the Federal fire retardant rules/regulations and is a natural bedding product.
Wool is a sustainable raw material (sheep only get a haircut), not harmful to the environment, and is actually healthy for the body. Furthermore, wool is naturally dust mite free, resists molds, and is naturally hypo-allergenic. On the other hand, commercially made mattresses are also fire retardant, but become so by using harmful chemicals. Unintentionally, the chemicals contribute to the cumulative effect of one's exposure and potentially harmful diseases.
A mattress manufacturer may have the right to not disclose their proprietary manufacturing secrets, but ultimately, a parent has the right to know what is in the products they will buy for their children. In the final analysis, you have the right to choose chemical free natural bedding for your child.
If your child has allergies, asthma, and/or chemical sensitivities, you might want to consider the choice of an organic mattress, wool pillow, or a wool comforter. When it comes to natural bedding, wool has many forms, such as; a wool wrapped mattress, wool mattress tops, wool pillows, woolly "down" pillows, and wool comforters. Consider all of your options.
Willow Whitton is the founder of Holy Lamb Organics, an organic bedding manufacturing company. She has a BA degree (1998) in Environmental Design from Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington.