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Fire Retardants 11 Feb 2014 08:23 #1

  • Ozark Sleeper
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I have done a lot of reading on your excellent website. Yesterday I stopped by a local mattress store and asked if they had any mattresses without chemical fire retardants. The salesperson had latex and standard models but answered, "No." He said there had been two recent federals laws (2007 and 2010, I think he said) that govern mattresses and that the chemicals used
were deemed safe. Now, I'm not naive enough to believe that chemicals deemed safe by the federal government really are, but I'm confused by what the most recent regulations actually say. For now, I am interested in only the issue of fire retardants and not toxicity issues that might arise from the breakdown of foams. Also, I'm interested only in adult mattresses. Has anyone done in depth research on this? I thought there were nonchemical alternatives to meeting the standards so long as foams were not used in the mattress composition. However, this site, which appears reputable, claims that even foams are not treated: greensciencepolicy.org/faq/

"If your mattress was made AFTER 2007, it is unlikely that the foam inside contains flame retardants. According to the mattress industry, flame retardants are not used in foam in adult mattresses in the U.S. The federal mattress standard, called 16 CFR 1633, requires that the finished mattress meet a very severe and lengthy open flame ignition test. To meet this requirement, barrier materials such as fire-resistant fiber batting or boric acid treated cotton fiber are wrapped around the mattress foam, which do not present the same concerns as flame retardants." (emphasis added by me)

This information appears to be in conflict with what is posted here:
www.themattressunderground.com/mattresses/style-preferences-and-statistics/natural-vs-synthetic.html

So I'm hoping to get clarification on the current 2014 state of regulations: 1) Are manufacturers requires to use chemical fire retardants in all foams? 2) If so, what chemicals are actually used? Thanks for your help.

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Fire Retardants 11 Feb 2014 08:34 #2

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Oh, and this website claims that there are no chemical free mattresses -- except by prescription -- and that latex has chemicals as well:
www.strobel.com/wool_burns.htm

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Fire Retardants 11 Feb 2014 08:53 #3

Oh, and this website claims that there are no chemical free mattresses -- except by prescription -- and that latex has chemicals as well:
www.strobel.com/wool_burns.htm


I would ignore strobel, they're simply wrong and spreading mis-information. You can do a forum search to see Phoenix's thoughts on Strobel. Non-chemically treated wool has be used successfully to pass the fire requirements.

It would be semi analogous to taking a thread out of a bullet proof vest and showing that it won't stop a bullet, and making the claim that since it didn't stop a bullet there's no way a bullet proof vest could be constructed from it.

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Fire Retardants 11 Feb 2014 09:04 #4

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That's a good point, but so is Stroebel's idea that the best way to buy may be individual layers with your own mattress cover -- assuming the layers aren't impregnated with chemicals.

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Fire Retardants 11 Feb 2014 11:34 #5

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Hi Ozark Sleeper,

Mattresses mostly use non fire retardant foams (although polyfoam and memory foam are still made with chemicals) and use fire barrier materials to pass the fire regulations. Fire retardant foams are much more common in the furniture industry than in the mattress industry.

Post #4 here and post #2 here has more information about fire barriers and like dn mentioned some of the information on the Strobel site is very misleading.

Post #2 here and the other posts and sources of information it links to also has more information that can help sort through some of the misleading information and claims about a very complex subject (mattress safety) and may help answer the question of "how safe is safe enough for me?".

That's a good point, but so is Stroebel's idea that the best way to buy may be individual layers with your own mattress cover -- assuming the layers aren't impregnated with chemicals.


While some people choose to go in a DIY direction ... it can be quite risky and in some cases much more costly than a component mattress that already has individual layers that can be re-arranged or exchanged. I would read post #15 here before considering this direction. You can also buy a mattress that hasn't passed the fire regulations (and has no fire retardant) with a prescription and you would also save any tax that was added with a local purchase. Of course you would need to find a smaller manufacturer that would be willing to build a mattress without a fire retardant barrier. One example of a manufacturer that specializes in this is here although there are some people who may prefer a wool quilted cover (that can double as a fire barrier).

Phoenix
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Fire Retardants 11 Feb 2014 16:55 #6

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Phoenix,
I did read extensively through the website; used the internal search mechanism, which doesn't work well; and also used an external search mechanism. Even so, I can see that my questions were duplicative. Sorry.

I'm not a fussy sleeper, but I do care about inhaling chemicals. I bought a futon for a couch several years ago and had to leave it outside for almost a month while it off-gassed.

My first thought was to buy one of the inexpensive mattresses from Tuft and Needle, but I hesitate for three reasons:
1) They don't disclose what their foam is made of/from
2) To some extent my concerns might be mitigated by their Certi-Pur certification, but I get the impression from the Certi-Pur website that this is not a very rigorous or extensive testing program
3) The company has only been in business for a year, so there's no telling how the mattresses will hold up in 2 years, let alone longer

Today, I visited a local latex mattress compiler. I spent some time on a 7" (really 6") Dunlop bed and really liked it. They buy latex directly from India (through an aggregator on the west coast) and have their casings made in North Carolina.They claim to be 100% organic but the certificates appear to certify only the latex and not the casing:
www.mountainairorganicbeds.com/Organic_Certificates.html
I question how the latex can be organic, based on your comment: "Dunlop uses sodium silicofluoride and both use various, curing agents, accelerators, antioxidants, mold release agents, and other additives depending on who is making the foam."
But the exporter does a certificate.

The price difference between the two products is more than $1,500.

Any further advice would be appreciated.

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Fire Retardants 11 Feb 2014 18:08 #7

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Hi Ozark Sleeper,

I did read extensively through the website; used the internal search mechanism, which doesn't work well; and also used an external search mechanism. Even so, I can see that my questions were duplicative. Sorry.


If you used the "search forum" tab then it would search the forum for the search terms you used and bring up any posts that contained them. It can also be a good idea to set "find posts from" to "any date" because the default is a year and it may not pick up all the posts that contain your search terms. The "search main site" window only searches the main pages of the site and not the forum.

Sometimes some combination of search terms can bring up dozens or hundreds of posts (listed 20 to a page) but I have a reference list of about 300 posts or so that I use to answer some of the more common questions so I certainly don't mind linking them when the search brings up too many hits to find what you are looking for.

1) They don't disclose what their foam is made of/from


It's polyurethane foam (which they disclose) and is about 2.0 lb density which is good quality. None of the foam manufacturers will disclose the specific formula they use to manufacture their foams which is proprietary information so the mattress manufacturers can only pass on the information that they are provided. There are many sources of information on the web about how polyurethane foam is manufactured (the primary chemicals are an isocyanate, a polyol, and a blowing agent ... usually water) but the rest of the chemicals they use or the proportions they use them are not specifically available. When a foam is manufactured though, the chemicals are polymerized and are mostly fully reacted and inert so the most effective way of knowing how safe it may be would be based on the results of testing for harmful substances or VOC's testing such as CertiPur or OekoTex.

A very few examples of some of the thousands of pages of information available includes some information about foam additives on the PFA site here and some basic information about urethane chemistry here and about making polyurethane foam here and there is some good basic information about polyurethane foams on the American Chemistry Council site here but it would take a degree in materials science to really understand all the intricacies of the thousands of different polyurethane foam formulations and methods of production.

2) To some extent my concerns might be mitigated by their Certi-Pur certification, but I get the impression from the Certi-Pur website that this is not a very rigorous or extensive testing program


It's not as stringent as testing protocols such as Oeko-Tex and is industry sponsored rather than independent but its fairly extensive and is a step in the right direction. You can see what they test for here*.
ADMIN NOTE:*Always check CertiPur site for the latest guidelines available

3) The company has only been in business for a year, so there's no telling how the mattresses will hold up in 2 years, let alone longer


The durability of a mattress depends on the materials that they use inside it (regardless of the company that puts the materials inside a cover) and they use polyfoam in the 2 lb range which is a good quality foam. There is more about assessing the different factors that can affect the durability and useful life of a mattress relative to each person (regardless of who makes it) in post #4 here . If you know the quality of the materials in a mattress you can identify any obvious weak links in terms of durability and make more meaningful comparisons with other mattresses.

I question how the latex can be organic, based on your comment: "Dunlop uses sodium silicofluoride and both use various, curing agents, accelerators, antioxidants, mold release agents, and other additives depending on who is making the foam."
But the exporter does a certificate.


You can read more about organic certifications and latex that has been GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) certified in post #2 here and the posts it links to. To be certified organic a latex core needs to contain at least 95% natural rubber that was sourced from an organic plantation.

The mattress you linked is a Savvy Rest mattress which uses organic Dunlop latex made by CoCo latex in India and they also use organic cotton and wool in their covers but they are considerably more costly than some other very similar mattresses that use the same type and quality of latex. They also have an option for 100% natural Talalay latex which is not organic.

Latex is also a much more costly (and better performing and more durable) material than polyurethane foam and high quality wool quilted covers by themselves can cost considerably more than the price of the Tuft and Needle mattress.

They are very much an apples to oranges comparison.

Phoenix
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Fire Retardants 12 Feb 2014 11:45 #8

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Presumably MountainAir buys Cocolatex sheets directly from India through the same importer that sells them to Savvy Rest. And then uses their own source for the casing, which may or may not the same as used by Savvy Rest.

Since I was comfortable with the 6" natural latex mattress and already have a suitable platform frame, I am considering going just the 6" route. If I don't like the feel, I can always add another 3" layer.

Your point that the layers will feel different stacked bare than they will contained in casing is something else I will have to consider. I assume the casing will firm up the feel, sometimes too much apparently, when the casing is drum tight.

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Fire Retardants 12 Feb 2014 13:10 #9

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Hi Ozark Sleeper,

Mountain Air used to sell Savvy Rest but they aren't mentioned on their site any longer and the Savvy Rest site no longer lists them so it seems they are no longer a Savvy Rest dealer (sorry for the misinformation) although their mattresses are also "component" mattresses with exchangeable layers.

They could be ordering their CoCo latex from their US distributor here .

They are certainly using good quality materials although there is also some misinformation on their site that is more about marketing than it is factual.

Phoenix
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Fire Retardants 12 Feb 2014 15:26 #10

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Supposedly, they are carrying organic mattresses but it's hard to feel confident of that, if they are using a latex certification from the past when they were a Savvy Rest store and there is nothing posted for the textiles. They claim to order their latex by container from India through an importer in CA. Apparently, all of their Dunlops are all 3" (although they say 3.5")

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