Breathe Easy This Earth Day!

I know Earth Day is a day to celebrate, protect, and preserve our planet—but I feel we can take it a step further and use Earth Day as a catalyst to protect and preserve our home environments as well.

Indoor air pollution can be a serious health hazard, especially in today’s more air-tight modern homes. Paint, carpet, furniture, manufactured woods, all are sources of toxins, off gassing and chemicals.  Even the foods we eat and the dishes from which we eat them can be a problem.

But instead of trying to change the whole world at once, we always advise people to take one step at a time. Focus on where you spend the greatest amount of time and have the most sustained contact.  Like a mattress.

Newborns will spend 15-18 hours a day on their crib, cradle or bassinet mattress—more time than even in the arms of their loving parents. Teens may spend up to 12 hours sleeping.  These are periods of heavy physical development and mental processing  and good sleep is essential to good health.  For everyone not of these ages, even 8 hours a day in one place is likely the most exposure to any one item in your home.  It only makes sense then to choose a mattress that will keep your family safe.

Look for mattresses that:

  • do not add to indoor air pollutants
  • do not off-gas toxins into your home
  • are made of healthcare grade and natural materials
  • are free from ‘organic contaminant’ like bed bugs, dust mites, and allergenic triggers—like dust

You want a mattress that is easy to clean in case of accidents (the bigger the child, the bigger the potential mess), that supports their joints and frame ergonomically with proper spinal support and contouring, and has clean, sealed seams to disallow hiding spots for crawling things and disallow crevices for collecting dust and dead skin cells.

Ideally, you also want a mattress that is comfortable—look for one with dual sleep surfaces for older children to pick their comfort level and for infants to have firm support as newborns and increased comfort as they grow to toddlers.

Need help deciphering marketing lingo from various manufacturers? Look for the following:

  • Buy a mattress from a company that submits to independent, third party testing and certification.  One good source is UL’s Greenguard certification.  Greenguard certification is a set of stringent standards that are applied to all areas and all materials in the mattress.  Their Greenguard Children and Schools certification (soon to be called GOLD certification) is the highest level attainable for youth mattresses.  If you’re buying a foam mattress, look for foams certified by Certi-PUR US.  These foams are free from off-gassing and indoor air pollutants.
  • Made in the USA.  It isn’t just a gimmick.  The United States has standards for manufacturing and materials products that are closely monitored by groups like the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
  • Watch State regulations, too.  Often States, like California, will lead the nation in securing a safety feature before the Federal government takes action.  Look for, for example, fire protection rating 1633 and 1632 to keep your children as safe as possible. And ideally, look for a product that achieves these high standards without additional chemical application—after all, the point of clean air in homes is reducing chemicals.

Finally, remember that you are the parent.  You need to play a roll in making decisions.  So give it the common sense test: touch it, feel it, smell it.  You want a smooth surface that is soft to the touch but well supported by the inside of the mattress.  Plastic and vinyl, sure they protect the guts of the mattress, but do you want your face pressed against that?  If you don’t want to put your face on it, don’t make your children rest theirs all night either.

And like most good advice, avoid extremes.  All organic?  That sounds good, but if leaks can soak in, how do you clean out the smell and the bacterial growth? How do you keep out bed bugs, or the dust mites (a leading cause of allergies?)

Creating a safe sleep environment, safe home environment is all about common sense, a little research, and letting the experts do their jobs.  Read the labels, go to stores with real knowledgeable sales people, and ask around, you’ll find what you’re looking for.  And when you are confident about the mattresses your family is sleeping on, everyone will get a better night’s rest—and you’ll have all the more energy to go enjoy Earth Day outside with your kids!


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