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April 18, 2014  |  Login
Sustainable and Healthy Bedding
By Dr. Alan Greene
Your newborn will likely spend more than sixteen hours sleeping every day during the first week at home. This will gradually decrease, but even at the first birthday most babies still sleep more than thirteen hours out of twenty-four.

So during this first year of spectacular growth one of the most important green purchases you make for your baby will be the mattress and sheets on which he sleeps.


From both a health and an environmental perspective, well-made green baby mattresses are far better than conventional ones. The batting, filling, and fabrics are made of clean, safe, certified organic cotton and organic wool. They are chemical free as well as waterproof and fireproof. In fact, mattresses of organic material should meet or even exceed all federal and state flammability standards (including the stricter California TB603 and Consumer Product Safety Commission standards).

Your baby’s body and face will lie close to her crib mattress every day and night for several years. This is one purchase that is worth going green for.

Conventional Crib Mattresses

Putting children to sleep on their back has greatly reduced the rate of SIDS. I recommend this strongly, no matter what mattress is used. But I wonder if some part of the benefit comes from not having babies’ faces pressed into the chemicals and gases of conventional mattresses.

Here is an overview of some specific chemical components of conventional crib mattresses that you can avoid by buying your baby a green mattress:1

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the surface material used in nearly all baby mattresses, is widely considered to be one of the most toxic and environmentally unfriendly plastics in use today.
  • Phthalates, associated with asthma, reproductive effects, and cancer, make up 30 percent by weight of the PVC surface of a typical baby mattress. The FDA and Consumer Product Safety Commission have issued general warnings regarding the use of phthalates, yet the PVC surfaces of baby mat­tresses still contain phthalates.
  • The PVC surface of a typical baby mattress is also treated with toxic fire-retardant chemicals such as antimony, arsenic, and phosphorous. Various biocides are often added as well.
  • Polyurethane foam, the predominant filling material used in baby mattresses, typically contains various problematic ingredients, in­cluding chemical catalysts, surfactants, emulsifiers, pigments, and other chemical ad­ditives. These frequently include formaldehyde, ben­­zene, toluene, and other well-established toxic chemicals, such as organotin compounds.
  • Polyurethane foam (essentially solid petroleum) is extremely flammable. To combat this hazard, toxic industrial fire retardants are added. The most common chemical fire retardant used to treat polyurethane foam has been pentaBDE, a toxin associated with hyperactivity and neurobehavioral al­terations. PentaBDE is not bound to the foam, soit leaches out into the surrounding air. PentaBDE has recently been banned in Europe. It has also been banned by the State of California as of 2006. However, there is currently no planned government action to recall the millions of baby mattresses presently in use that contain pentaBDE.

Organic Cotton Bedding


Crib sheets are made with the world’s most popular fabric: cotton. I en­courage you to choose organic cotton. It is so much kinder to your baby and to the planet.

Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. more

1. Chik, B. “Five Problems with Baby Mattresses.” Healthy Child.

2. Reeves, M. “PAN Promotes Organic Cotton Around the World.” Global Pesticide Campaigner, 1998, 8(1).

3. “Your Baby’s Bottom Line.” 2005.


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