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What images come to your mind when you think of the word "pollution"? Dark gray, foul-smelling smoke belching from the chimneys of enormous industrial factories? Oil leaking from cars or spilling out of boats and into the ocean? When it comes to pollution, you probably think of a lot of things, but the mattress that you sleep on is most likely not one of them.
But mattresses can be just as problematic a pollution source as cars or boats or factories. However, because scientists and the media alike tend to focus on outdoor pollution, many people are unaware that indoor air pollution is just as serious of a problem. The quality of the air inside your house may not be something you regularly think about, but it is extremely important to make sure that your indoor air stays clean, safe and breathable.
While outdoor air pollution gets media coverage due to important environmental issues such as the greenhouse effect and the destruction of the ozone layer, indoor air pollution can cause problems on a much more immediate and personal level. Breathing in harmful chemicals and other substances can lead to long term health problems including but not limited to asthma, difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, and even lung cancer. Particularly at risks are those with more sensitive bodies and weaker immune systems, such as infants, small children and the elderly.
Luckily, groups of scientists, environmental activists and air quality experts around the world have banded together in recent years to create certifications and standards for regulating indoor air quality. Among these international think tanks is the GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI), which tests and certifies home goods ranging from air filters and insulation to paints and textiles to cabinets, countertops, floors and, of course, mattresses. Mattresses and other items which have received the GreenGuard Gold certification are environmentally friendly, safe, nontoxic, and do not significantly contribute to indoor air pollution.
The GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI) is a nonprofit organization consisting of air pollution and environmental conservation experts, public health professionals, designers and construction workers, and even ordinary volunteers just like you and I. It was established as a branch of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and has been authorized by this institute to create quality standards for a wide range of common materials and products found in homes, offices and schools. GEI works towards two closely related goals: the improvement of public health standards through interior air quality and the decrease in risk of health conditions caused by indoor pollution.
In addition to mattresses, GreenGuard is capable of testing and certifying many household items including insulating, light fixtures, paints, and countertops. The institute also works together with schools and companies to create and test air quality standards for offices, classrooms and even hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Recently, GEI has developed the capability to test electronic goods, including printers and medical equipment, which could potentially expose users to harmful radiation.
Testing of products for GreenGuard certification is carried out by the Institute's affiliate, Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Companies and organizations are also able to contact Underwriters for help determining standards for new products. Through their partnership with UL, GEI is creating more and more environmental safety standards for a wider and larger variety of products and materials every single year!
GreenGuard's air quality standards for mattresses focus primarily on the absence of dangerous emissions. Mattresses are tested in closed areas (called "environmental chambers") in order to measure their emission levels at various common household temperatures. Experts working for GEI will also closely familiarize themselves with every step in the mattress's manufacturing process, in order to determine if excessive amounts of any potentially harmful chemicals or heavy metals such as lead are used.
In order to achieve GreenGuard Gold Certification, a mattress must emit no or only very low levels of:
Of course, that list probably doesn't mean a whole lot to you right off the bat. We know, we know. It's full of long, weirdly spelled scientific terms that you may have never even heard or seen before in your life. However, every item on that list is in fact extremely dangerous to both human health and the health of the environment - as we will explain in greater detail in the sections below.
In the previous section, we stated that the GreenGuard Gold certification for mattress is primary concerned with the emission of various gases. Wait, what? you're probably asking. Cars emit gases, chimneys emit gases, burning trash emits gas....but how do MATTRESSES emit harmful gases?
The answer lies with a group of substances collectively referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A VOC is any carbon compound, other than carbon dioxide or monoxide, which has a particularly low boiling point - usually average "room temperature" or lower. Because of this low boiling point, molecules of the substance will turn from solid or liquid into gas form even at completely average household temperatures. These molecules will "escape" into the air where they can be inhaled by people, especially those who regularly sleep on the mattress.
Some substances, such as phthalates and formaldehyde, can also present health risks simply by coming into contact with human skin. They do not even need to be breathed in in order to negatively affect your health. These chemicals are especially dangerous because humans frequently wear limited amounts of clothing when sleeping on a mattress, further increasing the risk that their bare skin will come in contact with these risky chemicals.
Ok, so what's so dangerous about these chemicals? you might ask. Sure, we breathe them in, but we breathe in lots of things every single day? What's so bad about that?
VOCs, phthalates and formaldehyde have all been linked by scientists to a number of serious health conditions. In particular, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, meaning that it has been positively proven to cause cancer in affected individual. In addition, breathing in VOCs can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms, cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and even over time permanently damage the liver, kidneys or central nervous system.
Breathing in these substances indoors poses a significantly greater risk than encountering them in the outdoor environment. In today's world, much of our indoor air is constantly re-circulated, meaning that we are breathing in the same air - and the same harmful chemicals - throughout the day. Over time, this repeated exposure causes our bodies, especially those of children and the elderly, to no longer be able to fight off or resist damage caused by VOCs and other harmful substances. Even the healthiest individual in the prime of their life can develop permanent health problems after a few months of regularly breathing in gases emitted by an unsafe, non-certified mattress.
If that previous section scared you, we encourage you not to worry. The strict, rigorous, highly thorough GreenGuard testing process is capable of detecting even the smallest trace amounts of these harmful substances. Mattresses which have received the GreenGuard Gold certification will contain zero or almost-zero harmful chemicals posing major health risks.
As we discussed in previous sections, GreenGuard testing is performed by the Institute's partner, Underwriters Laboratories. This organization is staffed by top scientists and pollution experts who perform a lengthy series of tests on every single brand of certified mattress. The testing process used to determine whether or not a mattress meets GreenGuard Gold certification standards regularly takes anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks of rigorous daily tests. In addition, if the mattress features multiple layers made of different materials, each layer will be tested separately and then the mattress will additionally be tested as a complete whole.
Mattresses are tested in chambers which replicate the environment in which they will be used. For example, a mattress may first be tested in a chamber representing an "average" room temperature, then in one which features "air conditioning" to simulate summer, and lastly one which creates an environment of "heat" for the depths of winter. If the amount of harmful gas emitted is too high in any single one of these tests, the mattress will fail and it will not receive the GreenGuard Gold certification.
In addition to the chamber tests, GreenGuard Institute employees will also investigate and familiarize themselves with every step of the mattress's manufacturing and production process. These include the harvesting of any natural materials, the manufacturing of the mattress itself, its process, packaging, shipping and distribution, and even the disposal of waste materials generated during manufacturing. Employees will ensure that chemicals which are harmful to either humans or the environment are not used during any step of this process. Failing one of these investigations will also result in the mattress not receiving the GreenGuard Gold certification.
Here at Brand Name, all of our mattresses are made from the highest quality natural latex. This is a completely naturally occurring substance which is produced by and harvested from the rubber tree. It can be harvested using a simple tapping process that does not require the use of chemicals. In addition, the trees are not exposed to harmful insecticides, pesticides, or weed killers, because the liquid natural latex itself protects them from these and other environmental hazards. (To learn more about the life cycle of the rubber tree and the sustainable, environmentally friendly harvesting of liquid latex, see our informative article here.)
Our manufacturing process focuses on the use of heat, pressure, and air to create the distinctive shape, size and texture of our comfortable and durable mattresses. Chemicals harmful to human health do not play a role in our manufacturing process. Instead, we use and enhance the natural beneficial qualities of the latex - its flexibility, breathability and more! Even our molds, used to shape the mattresses into the rectangular form you all recognize, are made from lightweight, nontoxic metals such as aluminum.
In addition, natural latex - due to the role it plays for the rubber tree in the wild - possesses a practically uncountable number of resistances to various dangers of the natural world. It is not flammable, meaning that it does not need to be treated with chemical flame retardants to avoid catching on fire. It also resists insects, mites, mold, mildew and bacteria. Lastly, it is naturally durable, flexible and comfortable, meaning that it does not need to be treated with phthalates to enhance any of these properties.
But why are these properties important? Simply put, chemical retardants and repellents are the number one source of volatile organic compounds and other harmful chemicals. The United States as well as many other countries around the world have begun putting laws into effect regulating which substances and chemicals can be used in these treatments. However, since natural latex mattresses don't need to be treated with any of these chemicals in the first place, our customers stay safe and healthy even without these new, long-overdue laws!
Our mattresses are also hypoallergenic, nontoxic and in many cases are even vegan as well! (Check out some of our other helpful guides, such as this one or that one, to learn more about all the amazing ways we keep our mattresses safe and healthy in order to help you get the perfect night's sleep.) They are certified safe to be used by children, the elderly and even infants. Yes, you heard us right! Even your brand new baby can safely and comfortably sleep on one of our high quality mattresses!
So why put your health - or the health of your loved ones, or the health of Planet Earth itself - at risk? Choose an environmentally friendly, toxic emission free Brand Name mattress today! Our catalog full of amazing products is just one click away!