In this profile, Naturepedic co-founder Barry Cik explains the difference between organic mattresses and their non-organic counterparts, uncovers why organic mattresses are particularly important for babies and young children, and offers his top 5 tips on what to consider when you are in the market for a new, organic mattress.
Q: What requirements must a mattress meet to be certified organic? How does this differ from the requirements that non-organic mattresses must meet?
A: The only organic certification for mattresses is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
The GOTS certification program takes all the contents of the mattress and essentially divides it into two groups, fiber and non-fiber.
1. Fiber – Fiber content includes all fabrics, filling materials, and any other mattress components derived from fibers. For an organic mattress, GOTS requires that 95% of the fiber content come from USDA NOP certified organic fiber. The remaining 5% may be non-organic per certain restrictions and per GOTS approval. (GOTS also provides for a Made with Organic Fiber label if at least 70% of the fiber is NOP certified.)
2. Non-Fiber - GOTS permits various accessories in an organic mattress. These include, for example, steel innersprings for structural support and flame proofing in order to comply with government mandates. All such accessories and chemical inputs must be approved by the GOTS program. If a mattress complies with all the above, then it is eligible for GOTS certification as an “organic mattress.”
Q: What is the best way to verify that a mattress is organic?
A: There is only one way to verify organic mattresses and manufacturers, and that is to check the GOTS list of certified organic mattress manufacturers. This is found at www.global-standard.org. Search under Public Database / Product Category (Other) / Manufacturing.
Consumers are easily confused between organic mattresses that are certified under the GOTS program versus non-certified mattresses made with organic materials. In general, “organic mattresses” not certified under the GOTS program may only contain a small amount of organic fiber. With GOTS certified organic mattresses, all the materials and ingredients are reviewed and approved by an independent GOTS approved certifier.
Q: Your company specializes in making organic mattresses for babies. Why is choosing a mattress made from organic materials so important for people at such a young age?
A: Mattresses, particularly including baby and children’s mattresses, are made with questionable materials and chemicals. For example, chemicals in mattresses may include phthalates, antimony, chlorinated or fluorinated compounds, etc. Organic mattresses essentially eliminate virtually all the possible chemicals that would be problematic.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has recently gone on record in this regard stating the following:
“A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than a child from any other generation in our history…Our kids are getting steady infusions of industrial chemicals before we even give them solid food…Today, advances in toxicology and analytical chemistry are revealing new pathways of exposure…There are subtle and troubling effects of chemicals on hormone systems, human reproduction, intellectual development and cognition.”
Q: Is it important for adults to buy organic mattresses as well?
A: Of course. We live in a chemical laden society. We don’t really know what all these chemicals are doing to us. One (rather simple) way of reducing our chemical exposures is to sleep on an organic mattress.
Q: How does the price of organic mattresses compare to non-organic mattresses? What is the explanation for this price difference?
A: The price of an organic mattress is usually higher than a lower-end conventional mattress, but an organic mattress is not necessarily more expensive than a typical upper-end conventional mattress. In any event, for example, the primary filling in conventional mattresses is polyurethane foam (or so-called soybean foam, which is really still polyurethane foam), which is made from petroleum. (The American Association of Fire Marshals refers to polyurethane foam as “solid gasoline”).
The primary filling in organic mattresses, on the other hand, is certified organic cotton, which is far more expensive than polyurethane foam.
Q: How easy is it to find organic mattresses? Are they widely available? If not, where is the best place to find them?
A: Organic mattresses are not difficult to find. Once again, the GOTS directory is the best way to locate certified organic mattress manufacturers.
Q: What are the top 5 things people should consider when they are shopping for a new, organic mattress?
A: Certification – “Green-washing” is widespread, with many people making green or eco or organic claims that are questionable. GOTS certification is the only way to verify whether consumer products, like mattresses, meet recognized organic standards.
• Chemical Off-Gassing Verification – Although certified organic mattresses will be low in chemical residues, an additional certification for low chemical emissions can add verification. The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute provides testing and certification for low-emitting products, including mattresses.
• Allergenic Materials Avoidance – Some materials may be allergenic for some people. For example, natural latex and wool can be problematic. People with chemical sensitivities may wish to consider whether these materials are appropriate for them.
• Firmness – Firmness is unrelated to organic or chemical considerations. However, it is important to make sure that the mattress firmness is appropriate. For adults, this is a personal and subjective matter, which means that when buying an adult mattress, it is best to be able to “test-sleep” the mattress. For babies and children, the Consumer Product Safety Commissions only recommends firm mattresses.
• Price – While organic mattresses are not cheap, there are models that are much more doable for people on a budget. A less-expensive organic mattress may essentially be just as good as one with more bells and whistles.
About Barry Cik
Barry A. Cik is a Board Certified Environmental Engineer with over a quarter century consulting experience. He is also certified by the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice and the Ohio EPA. Mr. Cik is also a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager and a Certified Diplomate Forensic Engineer. Mr. Cik is the author of a text book published by Government Institutes.
In 2003, Barry was sent by his wife to a juvenile furniture store to buy a crib mattress and other items for their first grandchild. Barry (who had never been in a juvenile furniture store) quickly realized that every single baby mattress was made from polyurethane foam and vinyl. His response to this was “My grandfather slept on straw, and I’d rather put my grandchild on straw than on these materials. This is not progress.”
Barry, together with his two sons Jeff and Jason (both magna cum laude graduates from Ivy League universities), then formed Naturepedic. The company was organic-focused from the very beginning, using organic cotton fabrics and filling as the basis of all Naturepedic products. Naturepedic joined OTA early on. In 2009, Barry reached out to GOTS and Naturepedic became the first certified organic baby and children’s mattress manufacturer.
Barry, and the entire Naturepedic family, are particularly strong supporters of the organic community, and of OTA in particular. Barry believes that the general public is more inclined to make the switch to organic products when their babies are the focus. Naturepedic is taking the organic message to increasing numbers of people who might otherwise not have realized the value of organic products in their homes.