At a time when bottled water, green tea, and organic food is in vogue because more people are health conscious, it is striking that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has forced us to sleep in known toxicants in our mattresses. 16 CFR 1633, the new CPSC regulations put into effect on July 1, 2007 requiring mattresses to resist ignition from open flames, will lead to people sleeping on known toxic chemicals. Such chemicals include Ammonium Polyphosphate, Antimony Trioxide (arsenic), Boric Acid (roach killer), Decabromodiphenyl Oxide, Formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), Vinylidene Chloride, and Melamine (the substance recently found in pet food that killed many pets). What’s worst of all, the CPSC required no labeling of these chemicals by mattress manufacturers so they are free to use whatever chemicals they see fit and the consumer is left completely in the dark on the issue.
Knowing that the chemicals that the mattress industry will use are known toxicants, the CPSC performed an in-depth risk assessment of these chemicals and their affect on humans. In this assessment they prove that people will absorb these chemicals into their bodies. Additionally they admit that the potential health risks are not completely known but regardless of the uncertainties, they claim that people will not be harmed from sleeping on these new flameproof mattresses. However, the Center for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency dispute some of the conclusions in the CPSC risk assessment.
There are several things striking about this whole issue. When consumers are presented this information, thus far 100% of people would prefer to have a mattress without the chemicals and to assume the minute risk (1 in 3 million to 1 in 14 million) of dying of a mattress fire. So why did the CPSC force on consumers something they would prefer to do without after they learn the facts?
In order for mattress manufacturers to meet the new standards, each mattress specimen must be submitted to a burn test at a designated testing facility. During this test, two propane burner flames are put to the mattress. These propane flames are purported to mimic burning bedclothes. What good is a flameproof mattress if the sheets and blankets still burn?
If the CPSC is looking out for consumer interests, why didn’t they require mattress manufacturers to disclose what chemicals they use so the consumer could make a more informed decision? Furthermore, why didn’t they give consumers the choice between flameproof mattresses and non-flameproof mattresses? These questions ought to cause consumers to look closer at just who the CPSC is really protecting.
Two facts may hint at what really drove the move to instill 16 CFR 1633. One is the fact that there is a lobbying group called the Fire Retardant Chemicals Association. Is it possible that the new regulation benefits FR chemical producers? Obviously! A second fact is that there is another lobby group called the International Sleep Products Association that represents mostly large domestic mattress manufacturers. As it turns out, ISPA supported the new FR regulations. Could large domestic manufacturers benefit from such insane regulations? If these new regulations put a financial burden on imports and small mattress manufacturers that they cannot absorb and it causes them to close their doors, then the answer is also obvious. A case-in-point is the store chain W.S. Badcock. Quoting a 5/16/2007 Furniture Today article, “Top 100 store chain W.S. Badcock said today it will close its bedding factory rather than make a ‘major expansion’ that would be required to meet new federal flammability regulations.”
Another case-in-point is an article published by newsreview.com on 06/07/07. Quoted in this article, “There are currently only 600 mattress manufacturers in the United States, and the new safety codes could eliminate a third of them.” This is serious evidence that 16 CFR 1633 was designed to benefit large domestic mattress manufacturers.
The good news is there is the option to buy a FR chemical-free mattress but there are few suppliers and it is going to require consumers to do a lot of homework to find them. It is also going to require consumers to get a prescription from their doctor or chiropractor in order to purchase a mattress without FR chemicals. But it will be worth the effort in order to protect your health. And if you have purchased a mattress made by one of the big-name manufacturers after July 1, 2007, you should seriously consider consuming lots of green tea and other strong antioxidants. Your long-term health may depend upon it.