Mattress Materials and Health Concerns
The biggest health concern with conventional mattresses and their synthetic materials is off-gassing. Most mattresses use some type of foam, and most foam is treated chemically. When you open a new memory foam mattress topper, a strong smell is noticeable for weeks. This is a result of the toxins from the chemicals slowly seeping into the air.
If you sleep on memory foam, you are inhaling these toxins from the mattress foam off-gassing. These can cause headaches and have other health effects. The best mattress materials are not synthetic. The best materials are organic and non-toxic.
Another issue with mattresses is their fire barriers. Mattresses are required to be flame resistant by law, so the fire retardant used in mattresses can also be slightly toxic and accounts for some of the odor you smell in some new mattresses.
Natural, Organic, Hypoallergenic Mattress Materials
Doctors advised us that the ideal sleeping surface would feature non-toxic, natural hypoallergenic materials that were inert (did not conduct heat or cold), breathable and anti-microbial (resisted mold and fungus). We looked at the types of natural materials commonly used in mattresses to determine how well they fit this goal.
Natural Rubber/Latex: Natural rubber is harvested by tapping the milk (sap) of Hevea brasiliensis (the common rubber tree), which grows within 10 degrees of the equator. The rubber tree sap is whipped up and turned into latex foam. This is truly a sustainable resource because sap can be collected from the trees up to 180 days per year and the tree heals within an hour. Unfortunately, many people are allergic to natural latex.
Organic Cotton: United States farmers applied nearly one-third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested (these chemicals are the most toxic classified by the Environmental Protection Agency). This can account for 25% of all the pesticides used in the United States. The use of chemicals in producing cotton can lead to massive environmental and health problems. You are helping sustain the environment if you buy a natural mattress made with 100% organic cotton, organic sheets, and/or organic bedding.
Organic Wool: Organic wool is produced without the use of hormones or pesticides, both in the animal and in the animal’s food. Wool is a sustainable resource because the sheep are not killed; they are merely shorn each year. Again, many people are allergic to wool.
Of these materials, both latex and wool have issues with allergic reactions in a fairly high proportion of the population. Although latex can be processed to remove the allergic proteins, this talalay latex is no longer natural. Organic cotton is the one material that performs best from a natural and non-off gassing viewpoint. Given what we learned about the properties of synthetic foams and natural latex we decided to continue looking for materials that would provide a safer, less toxic, non-off gassing sleep surface. We found one in the hospital industry in a co-polymer gel used for cushioning of severe wound care patients. This material is isoflex(r). We licensed it for use in the home market and changed its name to Intelli-gel®
Get more information on the health effects of memory foam and conventional mattresses
The Best Mattress Materials
We consciously try to eliminate our use of foam or other potentially toxic materials when making an intelliBED. As a result we will not use regular petrochemical foam, memory foam, natural latex foam (many people are allergic to latex) or an air chamber (promotes the growth of mold) in our mattresses. Fortunately, we have been able to find materials used in other products and market places that we have adapted for use in our intelliBED mattresses. Our exclusive Intelli-GEL® cushioning material is a space age co-polymar which is made from food-grade materials. It has been proven in hospital usage to be non toxic (it is eatable), anti-microbial and totally inert (doesn’t develop heat). It is so safe it is used in serious wound care situation like supporting burn patients and curing bed sores.
When we do use foam we use soy foam rather than polyurethane foam, but never in the sleeping area. In some beds we use a special form of latex (talalay) which has been processed to remove the protein which causes allergic reactions. Our exclusive right to use Intelli-GEL® in a mattress provides us with an advantage over any other mattress manufacturer when it comes to making a natural, less toxic product because we have the luxury of removing most or all foam. We use a fire blocker material that consists of inherently natural, glass fiber strands. We have designed our intelliBED mattresses to be the most natural, sleeper friendly products available for the home.